When you purchase or use a product you expect that it is safe to use. However, when manufacturers make harmful errors, a product can cause death or severe harm to someone even when used for its intended or foreseeable purpose. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that more than 33 million Americans are injured by consumer products each year. When this happens, a defective products claim may be made against the manufacturer or distributor of the product.
In a defective products case, the plaintiff (victim's family or the victim bringing the claim) must show:
- The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached that duty
- The breach caused an injury to the plaintiff
- The injury resulted in damages to the plaintiff
In a defective products case, there could be multiple defendants. Defendants can be parts suppliers, primary manufacturers, distributors, or retailers of a product. In some cases every entity in the chain of distribution may be a defendant, as they all owe a duty of safety to the purchaser.
Even when a product performs as intended and the manufacturer or supplier acted with care and without negligence, a defective products claim can also exist if a product has an inherently dangerous risk of harm due to its design. The manufacturer or supplier can be held to a higher standard under the theory of "strict liability." Under the strict liability theory, the manufacturer is responsible for any harm caused by the use of the product because the manufacturer should have known that such a product would cause danger when sold to the intended audience. It must be shown that the defective condition of the product made it unreasonably dangerous, even when used as intended or in a manner reasonably foreseeable to its manufacturer, and that the defective product caused the injury or death at issue. In this type of claim, the focus is on the condition of the product, not the conduct of the manufacturer.
A third theory under which a claim for defective products arises is Implied Warranties. The Uniform Commercial Code establishes contract-based grounds for products liability that are recognized in Georgia.
- Implied warranty of merchantability: the product must be fit for purposes intended by the seller.
- Implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose: the product must be fit for the buyer's intended use which was known to the seller.
Almost every item of personal property is subject to the product liability laws in Georgia and other states. Once the defective product enters the market, the manufacturer assumes the risk of liability to anyone the product may harm.
- All consumer goods: toys, sporting gear, recreational vehicles, tools, lawn and garden equipment, furniture, and appliances
- Motor vehicles: cars, trucks, minivans, SUV's and motorcycles
- Large machinery and equipment used in construction, farming and/or industrial manufacturing
- Pharmaceutical and medical products: medicine, drugs, diet pills, medical devices, orthotics, and contact lenses
- Perishable food and beverage products: raw meats, raw vegetables, processed food items, and cooked foods served at restaurants
Each state has a statute of limitations that defines how many years after injury or death the plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. Some states, like Georgia, also have a product liability statute of repose, which places a limit on the period of time (after the product has been manufactured or sold) that a product can be the subject of a product liability lawsuit. In the case of an older product, the statute of repose could expire before the statute of limitations has expired. Determining these deadlines can be a complex legal issue, so please consult with an attorney to be certain your rights do not lapse.
Defective products cases are a specialized area of practice. We have the experience and knowledge to protect you and obtain optimal compensation for the harm that has been caused.