Product Liability Claims: Who Can I Sue?
A product liability claim is a personal injury claim that involves injuries or damages caused by a defective product. Some of the most common types of product liability claims involve injuries or damages caused by the following situations:
- A machine that malfunctions during use;
- Failure to add safety features to a product where it is needed to prevent injuries (such as a safety guard on a power tool);
- Failure to provide proper instructions for the product’s use or to warn consumers of the risks associated with using a product;
- Food poisoning; and/or
- Inadequately tested or unusually dangerous medications.
If you have been injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries and losses. However, you will need to be able to prove that the defendant in the case is at-fault and therefore liable for injuries and losses.
To establish proof of liability in a product liability claim, you must generally be able to show that:
- You were injured or suffered damages;
- The product was defective;
- The defect was what caused your injuries or damages;
- You used the product as the manufacturer could reasonably expect a consumer to use the product, or that you were not reasonably warned about the dangers associated with using the product.
Who Can Be Sued For Injuries Caused by a Defective Product?
It can often be confusing to determine who is liable for the injuries or damages caused by a defective product. Generally, however, whenever someone is injured by a defective product, several different potential parties may be held liable:
- The manufacturer;
- Anyone in the products chain of distribution, e.g. the distributor, dealer, retailer; and
- Anyone who participated in maintaining, repairing, or altering the product.
That said, liability for injuries caused by a defective product can generally be broken down into two types:
- Liability based on negligence; and
- Warranty/Strict liability
Often, a product liability claim will allege both of these types against the defendant, as more than one may apply.
In a product liability claim based on negligence, the defendant owed you a duty of care and breached that duty. For instance, suppose a manufacturer of a product negligently leaves a screw loose that is supposed to hold the product together. The manufacturer had a duty to tighten the screw, but breached this duty when it left the screw loose.
When you purchased and used the product, it came apart in your hands and injured you—hence causation and injury. You can then sue the manufacturer for negligently causing you to be injured by not tightening the screw.
Generally, when you buy a product, everyone in the “chain of distribution” of the product implicitly guarantees, whether they intend to or not, that the product is reasonably safe. The “chain of distribution” includes the manufacturer, distributors, and retail outlets where you bought the product.
If you are injured by a defective product, you can potentially sue all of these entities. Furthermore, you do not have to prove negligence, it is enough to prove that the product was defective or unusually dangerous.
However, you still have to prove that the injury was caused by a defect in the product. In other words, if you misused the product, by using it in a way that was not intended by the manufacturer or you damaged the product, you cannot sue.
For instance, suppose you try to tow a 5,000-pound boat using your car that is designed and clearly marked as being able to tow only 1,000 pounds. If a wheel falls off because of the excess weight and you are injured, that is a misuse of the car and you don’t have a viable claim.
On the other hand, suppose you are driving your car and the wheel falls off because the axle holding the wheel on had a crack in it from the manufacturing process. If you are injured, then you can sue under a warranty/strict liability type of action.
How an Experienced California Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Regardless of who you think is liable for injuries and losses caused by a defective product, it is important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to thoroughly investigate the entire history of the product, including the who, what, when, where, and how the product was:
- Distributed; and
After that, your attorney will need to confirm your right to hold the potential defendant(s) liable by applying the governing state laws to the facts of the case.
If you have been injured by a defective product in California, contact our law firm. Our knowledgeable and experienced California personal injury attorneys can help you determine against which parties you may file a product liability claim to recover compensation for your injuries and losses. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Call us today!
Christopher Montes de Oca is an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles. Chris is recognized as a “Super Lawyer Rising Star,” a recognition that only 2.5 percent of lawyers receive, because of the exceptional results he has seen and his dedication to his clients. Chris services clients throughout Los Angeles, including Echo Park, Maywood, Long Beach, Whittier, Glendale, La Mirada, Pico Rivera, Hacienda Heights, and Alhambra. Call him today for a free consultation at (562) 901-4664.