PRODUCT LIABILITY DEFECTS DONT HAVE TO BREAK YOU
May 5, 2018
Have you ever purchased a bicycle, a watch or home appliance only to have it fail to meet your expectations, because it broke or malfunctioned, causing you great pain and lasting injury? If your answer to this question is “yes,” never fear; a remedy is at hand. All it requires is that you familiarize yourself with the types of property liability.
In the United States four claims are commonly associated with product liability: negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, and certain consumer protection claims. Each type of liability claim demands certain conditions be proven before the claim can be considered successful. “Section Two of the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Product Liability” outlines three major liability claims:
- Manufacturing defect: Those defects which occur during the manufacturing process. These defects may be attributable to inferior materials or substandard workmanship.
- Design defect: Those defects which are attributable to inherently dangerous or useless design.
- Failure to warn or marketing defect: Those defects which elude the consumer’s awareness because of inadequate warning about potentially dangerous, yet not obvious, components of a product.
Breach of warranty also falls under product liability. Warranties are statements by a manufacturer or seller about the product during a commercial transaction. When involved in a warranty dispute, the negotiations require privity—or direct interaction—between the wronged party and the manufacturer or seller of the defective good.
There are usually three types of breach of warranty-based product claims: the first type involves a breach of express warranty (explicit claims about a product by the manufacturer); the second type involves a breach of an implied warrant of merchantability (expectations common to all products, unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer or seller); and the third involves a breach of an implied warranty of fitness for a specified purpose. A fourth type of warranty-based product claim concerns real estate and the violation of an implied warrant of habitability.
Negligence is another form of property liability. A claim based on negligence consists of five types of proof:
- A duty owed;
- A breach of that duty;
- The breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury;
- The breach proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury;
- Actual injury was suffered by the plaintiff.
Negligence cases have arisen to deal with specific situations, including negligence per se, which uses a manufacturer’s violation of a law or regulation in place of proof of a duty and a breach, and res ipsa loquitur, an inference of negligence under certain circumstances.
BEYOND THE MANUFACTURER: STRICT LIABILITY
A claim of strict liability, sometimes called absolute liability, focuses exclusively on the product rather than any negligence on the manufacturer’s part. Strict liability decrees that the manufacturer is responsible for a defective product even if there is no evidence of negligence. Today strict liability is most commonly associated with the manufacture of defective products. The 1963 case Greenman V. Yuba Power Products resulted in the California Supreme Court’s becoming the first court to adopt strict tort liability for defective products. This tort liability stipulates that injured plaintiffs must prove that the product caused harm, but it does not demand that the plaintiff prove how the manufacturer was careless. Buyers of the product and other injured parties with no direct relationship to the product may sue for damages caused by the product. A plaintiff may recover damages even if the seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of the product.
Traditionally strict liability has been applied to damages caused by animals. In the majority of jurisdictions, the owners of animals who trespass are strictly liable for the actions of those animals. The law generally distinguishes between domesticated and wild animals, and the keeper of a domesticated animal is strictly liable for any harm that animal does only if the keeper was aware of a certain negative personality trait or propensity toward violence. Some states, however, make an exception to this rule for dogs. Some jurisdictions have enacted statutes that impose absolute liability for dog bites without consideration of previous knowledge of a dog’s viciousness.
PRODUCT LIABILITY AND CONSUMER PROTECTION
Many of the rules and regulations regarding product liability vary by state. Furthermore, many states have enacted consumer protection statutes which outline specific remedies for product defects. Many of these state-determined statutory remedies concern defects which merely make the product useless but do not injure the consumer or case property damage. In Arizona, for instance, the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act protects consumers who buy goods from any merchant. Under this act, a buyer may recover any money lost from a purchase by bringing on his own behalf an action against the seller in court if the buyer bought the merchandise less than one year before he brings the action. Alternatively, a buyer may file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which is authorized to bring action against the seller. Perhaps the best-known consumer protection law is the “lemon law,” which came into being to protect American consumers from purchasing defective cars.
VICTIM OF A DEFECTIVE PRODUCT? HIRE A PRODUCT LIABILITY ATTORNEY
Should you find yourself the victim of a defective product, file a claim as soon as possible. Many states have a “statute of limitations,” which limits the time you have to file a lawsuit. A valid claim filed after this period is usually denied. However, many states have some form of “delayed discovery” rule, which stipulates that the statute does not begin to run until the injury was discovered. Delayed discovery typically applies to cases where the plaintiff has been exposed to dangerous chemicals like asbestos, but the harm done is not apparent until years later.
The most important thing you can do when faced with defective products is to hire an attorney trained in product liability. An attorney trained in product liability will help you receive the settlement you deserve in order to compensate you for the pain and suffering caused by a defective product.
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