What is a product liability lawsuit?

by Gina Corena

Last Updated on September 28,2023

What is a product liability lawsuit?

When a consumer purchases a product that turns out to be unsafe and causes injury, a product liability lawsuit helps the consumer to reclaim the losses they incurred from the defective product. The product liability also extends to other users of the product – they do not have to be the original owner to claim damages in case of an injury. 

For those who may be unaware, one can sue for a defective product when harmed due to its malfunction. Furthermore, navigating through the broader sphere of product liability is essential to understand the various facets of this legal domain. One of the concerning areas within this is the harm caused by defective medical devices, which pose unique risks to the users.

Product liability is important because when a product is not safe and causes an injury, there is a system of laws that assigns fault to the manufacturer, distributor, installer or retailer and protects the consumer. If a consumer is injured because of a defective product, they could suffer economic losses like hospital bills, follow-up doctor visits, prescription drug costs, and lost income; as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment.

A product liability lawsuit allows the consumer to claim damages due to a defective product. A product can be defective due to a poor design, or become defective at some point along the supply chain – whether when being manufactured, packaged, transported, stored, or handled by a distributor or retailer.  Some of the products most frequently named in product liability lawsuits are products Americans use every day: 

  • Components of cars and trucks, such as brakes, airbags, or steering systems
  • Children’s items, such as toys, cribs or strollers
  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and medical implants and devices 
  • Household products, including cleaners, electronics and appliances 

Injuries from defective products can be severe, or even permanently debilitating. Serious injuries from defective products include traumatic brain injuries (from car accidents or falls), burns (fires caused by defective electronics or flammable chemicals), illnesses from defective medications or medical devices, broken bones, or amputation. No matter the nature of the injury, a product liability lawsuit can help the victim recover the costs of their recovery and improve their quality of life. 

How Can a Plaintiff Win a Product Liability Lawsuit?  

Product liability law in Nevada allows for a number of ways a product manufacturer,distributor, retailer or seller can be found liable for damages from a defective product. There are four legal theories a plaintiff can base their argument against the defendant in a product liability lawsuit. 

  • Negligence. For the plaintiff to claim damages based on the negligence of the product manufacturer, distributor or retailer, the five elements of negligence must be proven. 
  1. The manufacturer, distributor or retailer of the product owed a duty of care to the consumer.
  2. The manufacturer, distributor or retailer breached that duty.
  3. The breach of duty caused the consumer’s injury. 
  4. The breach of duty was the proximate cause of the injury. 
  5. The negligent act of the manufacturer, distributor or retailer caused actual damages for the consumer. 
  • A plaintiff may argue their product was defective based on false advertising.  If the manufacturer communicates in a false or misleading way about the safety of the product, the product could cause an injury even if used in the way it is intended. The false advertising could be in marketing materials like online ads or television commercials, or signs posted in the store where it was purchased. 
  • An express warranty or an implied warranty. If a seller advertises or labels a product as having a certain standard of quality, and the product itself does not meet the standard, the seller could be found to have violated the express warranty. There are two types of implied warranties that a manufacturer or seller could be found in breach of in a product liability lawsuit. An implied warranty of merchantability means that when the product is purchased, it will be in a condition to perform its expected functions. An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose means the consumer can expect the seller will provide accurate instructions for how to use a product. 
  • Another rule in product liability lawsuits that protects the consumer is strict liability. If the rule is applied, it means the consumer does not actually have to prove that the manufacturer or seller of the product was negligent. If the product is defective, it is considered to be the defendant’s responsibility – whether they were negligent or not. 

A product manufacturer is also responsible for labeling the product with the correct safety warning. There are some products that cannot be used if they are completely safe. For example, if a gas barbecue grill did not ignite, it could not be used for its intended purpose. These kinds of products are called unavoidably unsafe products. The manufacturer must create a label with warnings about the dangers of the product and instructions on how to use the product safely. If there is no proper safety labeling, the manufacturer, seller or retailer could be found guilty of negligence. 

What are Some Common Defenses In a Product Liability Lawsuit? 

The defendant in a product liability lawsuit may claim that the product did not become defective in their part of the supply chain. For example, the manufacturer could point blame at the retailer, claiming the product acquired a defect because of the way it was stored, or claim the safety warning labeling was the responsibility of another company that packaged and distributed the product. However, in the case of defective prescription or over-the-counter drugs, there is an exception called market share liability. In these cases, the liability for the defect is according to the percentage of sales of the drug in the area where the plaintiff experienced the injury. 

The defendant could also argue the product only became defective because of the way the consumer manipulated or altered the product after they acquired it – therefore placing the blame for the injury on the consumer. An experienced attorney can gather evidence to rebut these claims and establish the manufacturer’s liability. 

If a defective product has injured you – whether you purchased the product or not – product liability law means that you may be able to claim compensation for damages such as medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering. Our team can help. Contact us for a free consultation.

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