In 1992, a 79-year-old woman suffered third-degree burns when she spilled hot coffee from a McDonald’s cup on her lap. She was in the hospital for eight days undergoing skin grafting and continued with medical treatment for two years after that.
The woman later sued McDonald’s, alleging that the fast food chain had been negligent in the design and manufacture of their coffee cup. The jury found in favor of the woman and awarded her $2.9 million in damages.
This is an example of a highly publicized product liability claim. In this blog post, we will delve into the different types of product liability claims, providing real-life examples to illustrate each case.
What Is Product Liability?
Product liability is a legal theory that holds manufacturers, distributors, and sellers accountable for injuries caused by products they sell to the public. It plays a crucial role in protecting consumers from defective or dangerous products.
You may be able to file a product liability claim if a product you used caused you harm. To discuss your case and learn about your legal options, you should talk to an experienced product liability attorney.
In most instances, your product liability claim will fall under one of three categories of product liability.
Design Defect Product Liability Claims
When a company wants to launch a new product, one of the first things it does is product design.
If they make a mistake in the design of their product, it could not only cause the product to fail on the market but also hurt many individuals who buy it and cost the company millions of dollars in damages if product users successfully sue them.
For example, hundreds of people were killed or injured as a result of a design flaw in the earlier Ford Explorer models that made them prone to rollovers.
Ford faced many product liability claims from drivers injured in accidents while driving the Explorer, and a judge found that the Explorer was defective by design.
The company had to recall thousands of vehicles, pay millions in compensation, and ultimately redesign the Explorer, making its rollover ratings comparable with those of other SUVs.
A design defect will affect all products created with that design and frequently leads to massive recalls from the manufacturer.
Other examples of design defect product liability claims filed against businesses include:
- Unstable Furniture Design. When chairs from a furniture manufacturer consistently tipped over and injured people as a result of a bad design, the manufacturer was subject to several product liability claims. A recall was necessitated by this design defect.
- Flammable Children’s Clothing: A clothing company got into legal trouble after several children’s pajama sets caught fire easily due to poor fabric choices and insufficient fire-resistant properties. This design defect endangered the safety of young wearers.
- Takata’s Malfunctioning Airbags: Takata, which was one of the top airbag producers in the world, had to settle many product liability claims due to their airbag systems exploding and hurling metal fragments at the driver and passengers, leading to severe injuries and fatalities.
Manufacturing Defects Product Liability Claims
A manufacturing defect occurs when a product is made incorrectly, making it potentially unsafe for consumers.
This can happen if there is a problem with the manufacturing process, or if the product is not properly assembled.
Manufacturing defects are a major source of product liability claims, and they often go undetected until a user is hurt by a product. Manufacturing defects also only affect a small portion of the total number of items produced, as opposed to all products, as is the case with design defects.
American multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer, for example, has had to recall batches of its medications because of a variety of manufacturing defects that could have resulted in product liability claims being made against them.
These flaws include incorrect labeling of drug bottles and problems with ingredients that could cause patients to take higher or lower doses of a drug.
Other product defects that could result in manufacturing defects liability claims include:
- A car with a faulty brake system that results in unexpected brake failures, accidents, injuries, and death.
- A children’s toy with potentially dangerous sharp edges.
- Medication that was improperly packaged and is tainted by bacteria.
Inadequate Warnings or Instructions Product Liability Claims
Manufacturers have a responsibility to provide clear and comprehensive instructions on their product usage and potential risks.
They expose themselves to potential product liability claims if they don’t alert customers about a known risk associated with their product.
For example, if a pharmaceutical company’s drug has a known side effect of liver damage, but they fail to warn physicians and patients of this potentially serious side effect, and a patient’s liver is harmed while taking their drug, the patient may be able to sue them for damages.
Another illustration is if a food company fails to accurately disclose allergy information on the label of a popular snack they’re selling and multiple consumers with severe allergies experience life-threatening reactions after consuming their product, they could face inadequate warnings or instructions product liability claims.
Whether you file a product liability claim due to a design defect, manufacturing defect, or failure to provide adequate warning or instruction, you must prove that the product was defective, the defect caused you to be injured, and the defendant was in the chain of distribution of the product, for you to be awarded damages.
To demonstrate this, you might require the assistance of an expert, someone with training and experience in the relevant industry, who can identify mistakes in the product’s design and explain how it might have been possible to fix or make it safer.
You could seek the following damages in a product liability lawsuit:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Disability expenses
- Loss of enjoyment of life
You should note that product liability cases are subject to a statute of limitations. The period varies by state but is typically between two and six years from the day a product caused you to be injured.
Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced San Diego Defective Product Attorneys
Product liability is a complex area of law, and it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced product liability lawyer if you’re hurt while using a product.
An attorney can help you understand your legal choices, gather evidence to support your product liability claim, file the necessary legal paperwork, and negotiate with the defendant. If necessary, they can also represent you in court to ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
At Gallagher Krich, APC, we have 30+ years of experience successfully representing persons harmed by unsafe home appliances or household power tools, defective car parts, dangerous medication, unsafe toys, and more. Let us put our many years of experience and in-depth knowledge of product liability law to work for you.
Contact us at (858) 926-5797 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation to go through your case, and we can get started on your product liability claim today!