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What is Product Liability?
Any company that designs, manufactures, sells, or distributes a dangerous product could potentially be held liable if the product causes or contributes to a person’s injury or wrongful death. A company may be held strictly liable, meaning they do not even have to be negligent if the product that injured or killed someone was in a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous when put to its reasonably anticipated use. That essentially means that the product had a risk of hurting someone even when used as expected.
Liability can result from three different types of flaws:
- Design flaws- Part of the design of the product is inherently dangerous (such as a toy that is easily broken into small parts, presenting a choking hazard)
- Manufacturing flaws- The defect arose from a mistake while the product was being made (for example, if the product was manufactured using substandard materials)
- Marketing flaws- The company failed to provide a sufficient warning of the risks associated with a product’s use (for example, a toxic chemical product that does not contain adequate information and precautions on how to use it safely)
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Who is Responsible for a Defective Product?
Product liability cases involve what is known as the chain of distribution, starting from the product’s manufacturer to the retailer that puts it on their shelves for customers to purchase. As such, one or even all parties in the chain may potentially be liable for a defective, injury-causing product.
If the manufacturing of a defective product involved more than one manufacturer, it is possible that both may be legally liable. For example, if the defective part in a product came from another manufacturer and was sold to the manufacturer of the whole product that includes the defective part, they may both be held responsible.
The retailer of the product may also be held liable for selling you the product, even though they did not manufacture it. It is not necessary for you to have been the buyer of the product in order for you to sue the retailer. If someone purchased a defective product for you, you used it and suffered an injury from it, you may still name them as a defendant.
Additionally, between manufacturer and retailer exists a middleman, or a wholesaler, from which the retailer procures the product. They may also be named as a defendant when you file a lawsuit. Any one of these, or all, could be liable. In fact, it is more beneficial for you to identify as many liable parties as possible since it will better ensure that at least one will be able to pay out even if not all are able to.