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Product LiabilityIf you or a loved one have been injured by a product, such as a lawnmower, car engine, or an infant swing, you may have grounds upon which to file a product liability lawsuit. Product liability claims involve consumers who are injured after using a product in the way it was supposed to be or where it’s reasonably foreseeable how they would have intended to use it. After an injury occurs, an injury victim may sue the product’s designer, manufacturer, or distributor for economic and non-economic damages.

What Must Be Proven In Product Liability Cases?

According to California law, there are four broad elements you must prove to win a product liability case. You must show that:

  • The defendant either designed, manufactured, or sold a defective product
  • The product had a defect when it left the defendant’s custody
  • You (the plaintiff) used the product in a way that was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant
  • You were injured by the product

This is the general threshold of what you must prove in order to secure damages for your harm. However, there are additional elements that may need to be proven, depending on the nature of the defect in question.

What Are The Product Liability Categories?

There are three primary categories of product liability claims: defective design, defective manufacturing, and failure to warn (a.k.a., “defective warning”).

Defective Design

According to California law, a design is defective when:

  • The product in question fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect
  • An ordinary consumer was injured while using the product as it was meant to be used or in a way that is reasonably foreseeable, OR
  • The product’s benefits do not outweigh the risks that are inherent to its design

In other words, there are two tests that a civil court can apply to defective design product liability cases. Consider an example of the first test. Suppose Plaintiff Peter purchased a smoothie blender that purposely was not designed with a top. The company’s claim was that the blender’s blades spun extra fast to give consumers a smoothie in under 15 seconds and this hi-power spinning made it so that a top wasn’t necessary. The convenience of not having to mess around with tightening, removing, and cleaning a top was also a selling point for the company. 

However, when Peter turned the blender on, the hi-power blades turned the ice chips (which were used to make a smoothie) into shards that shot out and punctured Peter’s face, including one of his eyes and caused semi-permanent damage. In this case, he used the product as an ordinary consumer would and was injured. He also had no reason to suspect the product wouldn’t perform safely.

In the alternative, suppose Peter tried to make cotton candy with the hi-power blender and was injured by burning sugar that sprayed out and covered his face. In this case, unless many other consumers did the same, it is unlikely that a judge will find the smoothie blender company should’ve reasonably foreseen Peter’s unconventional use of its product.

Consider the second test. Using the first example, a judge may find that the inherent risks of the product’s hi-power performance outweigh the benefit of convenience afforded by denying consumers the safety of a blender top. 

Defective Manufacturing 

According to California law, a product has a manufacturing defect if:

  • It differs from the design or specifications of the manufacturer, or
  • It differs – in harmful ways – from other typical units of the same line of products

For example, suppose that you purchase a lawnmower. The lawnmower explodes as soon as you start it. Pieces of shrapnel hit you, causing severe injuries. In this case, there was a manufacturing defect because lawnmowers do not ordinarily explode merely by being turned on. 

A manufacturing defect can be present in one unit of a shipment or it can be present in several or all units of a shipment. Whether the product you purchased is the only item with a defect doesn’t matter and bears no implications on your case because a manufacturer may be held strictly liable for harmful manufacturing defects. 

Failure to Warn

Products that may be inherently dangerous must feature warnings of their potential risks. For example, more than likely, you have seen plastic bags state that children might suffocate if they interact with them. Typically, toys feature an age range warning, such as “3+” or “8 and older” to keep parents informed of how safe the product is for an average child of that age. Such warnings have become commonplace due to past events where consumers, of all ages, were harmed by products that were inherently dangerous or had the potential of becoming dangerous under commonly applied circumstances.

California’s products liability failure to warn law is structured so that manufacturers must label products with sufficient warnings or instructions about potential risks. Generally speaking, in order for a plaintiff to secure damages for the harm they’ve suffered, the risks of the product need to have been known or knowable by the defendant at the time of the product’s manufacturing, distribution, or sale.

It must also be proven that the risks associated with the product presented a substantial danger when a consumer used it in its intended way or a reasonably foreseeable way. Finally, it will need to be proven that:

  • An ordinary consumer wouldn’t have recognized the potential risks;
  • The defendant failed to adequately warn or instruct against the risk; and
  • The lack of sufficient warnings or instructions was a substantial factor in why the consumer was harmed.

If a dangerous product did not come with a warning or the warning didn’t cover the entirety of its dangers, then you may have grounds to pursue legal action after sustaining harm. In some cases, warning or giving instructions against the entirety of a product’s dangers should also include reasonably foreseeable misuse. Reasonably foreseeable misuse is not always apparent at the time of manufacturing, but it can become apparent after some time on the market, in which case, a new warning label may be necessary.  

What Are Common Types Of Product Liability Cases?

Common types of product liability cases involve:

  • Car parts
  • Medical devices
  • Household cleaning devices
  • Cosmetology equipment
  • Toys and other child/baby products

What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Product Liability Lawsuits?

You will have two years from the date you knew or should’ve known about your injury and its relation to the product before you’ll be barred from seeking compensation via filing a new lawsuit. In some product liability cases, the relation between your injury and the product may be readily apparent, such as explosion or choking cases. However, this connection may not be readily apparent if your harm and its symptoms could pertain to a variety of disorders or diseases. As an example, you may need to see a doctor numerous times before you learn that your persistent cough, rash, and headaches stem from a cosmetic product manufactured by a company that failed to list all of its ingredients.

Contact Reputable Product Liability Lawyers

Getting injured as a result of a consumer product can take a serious toll on your health and well-being. If you’ve suffered harm through no fault of your own, you deserve just compensation. Do not be intimidated by big companies and their extensive legal teams. Hire aggressive and seasoned product liability lawyers who will do all they can to aggressively advocate on behalf of your interests. At the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, PC, our track record of success speaks for itself. Call 949-727-9300 to schedule a free consultation with our team today. We look forward to speaking with you.