Have you experienced harm due to the use of a product that you expected to be safe? You may have a product liability claim. Contact Edelstein Martin & Nelson for a free consultation to find out your legal options.
Consumers are legally entitled to have a reasonable expectation of safety from the products they purchase. When someone experiences a product defect, they risk injury and sometimes even death. Product liability in law refers to the responsibility of product manufacturers to ensure there are no design defects that would make the product unreasonably dangerous.
When consumers are injured by a product, they turn to product liability law to protect themselves and other consumers. Filing a product liability claim ensures that manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and vendors are held liable for the injuries caused by the defective product. These parties lose profits and experience harm to their reputation when they are associated with defective products and product liability lawsuits.
A product liability lawyer is a lawyer that specializes in filing product liability lawsuits. They are knowledgeable about product liability law and the process for filing a product liability claim properly, to get the best possible outcome. Most importantly, they help injury victims strengthen their cases and negotiate settlements. Philadelphia product liability attorneys also adhere to state statutes regarding liability. If you’ve been injured by a product, the law office of Edelstein Martin & Nelson, LLPS can help you recover damages. Find out more with a free consultation today.
Product Liability vs. Personal Injury
Product liability is a subcategory of the broader umbrella of personal injury law. Seven percent of all personal injury cases in 2004 were related to product liability. Like other types of personal injury cases, dangerous products can cause serious injuries or wrongful death. But unlike other types of personal injury cases, people who have been injured by consumer products do not have to prove intentional harm or negligence by the defendant. Product liability refers to the liability of all parties involved in the manufacturing of a product for harm caused by that product.
Strict liability is a doctrine of liability that does not depend on negligence or intent to harm. Under this doctrine, plaintiffs only have to prove that the product caused unexpected harm by showing that the product is defective. Any type of defect implies that the product was flawed and some type of negligence has already occurred. Products liability attorneys help plaintiffs prove that the product was defective and caused their injuries.
Products Liability Law
As a consumer, you have certain legal rights regarding the products you use as long as you use them as intended. The rights you have as a product consumer include the right to safety, the right to be informed, and the right to choose.
Product liability law states that manufacturers or sellers of goods must compensate anyone their product harmed due to defects. The parties that can seek damages are not only buyers, but sometimes also users and even bystanders if they received an injury due to the product.
Legal Basis for Product Liability
A uniform federal product liability law does not exist. Instead, product liability law derives from both tort law and contract law, and each state has its own product liability statutes.
In Pennsylvania, the doctrine of strict liability does not require that the plaintiff prove carelessness or neglect on the part of the manufacturer or the seller. Strict liability means the seller is automatically a liable party, although they may not be the only liable party.
Types of Product Liability Claims
Injuries from dangerous products have one of three causes: design, manufacturing, or marketing. A product defect renders the product unreasonably dangerous when used as intended.
A design defect describes a situation where a product has an inherent flaw in its design. This kind of defect often makes it impossible to use the product properly or as intended without injury.
When there’s a problem during the manufacturing process, such as a missing component or incorrect installation, a manufacturing defect occurs. Consumers might be able to use the product normally for a period of time before the defect appears. It may be obvious, such as a lack of safety features, or a crucial function necessary to be able to fully operate the product as intended.
A product that has been portrayed inaccurately in some form can be legally described as having a marketing defect. It may have a lack of instructions for safe usage, or a lack of warnings about hazards. Pennsylvania has an Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) which includes a catch-all provision to prohibit businesses in the state from engaging in “fraudulent or deceptive conduct which creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding” during a transaction. False promises and inaccurate claims fall under marketing defects.
Breach of Warranty
A breach of warranty is a violation of the warranty agreement between the manufacturer or seller and the consumer. Almost every new product purchase comes with a warranty, or an implied warranty. Also known as a warranty of merchantability, it automatically starts on the date of purchase and is typically good for one year.
Express warranties, on the other hand, are warranties that come directly from the manufacturer or seller, sometimes both. This type of warranty is written and exclusive to the manufacturer or seller that is offering it.
Failure to Warn
Even with safety features or personal protective equipment, some products have a high risk of injury. Products such as power tools can easily slip and cause injury. For this reason, products with potential safety issues must legally warn consumers of the potential risks and side effects. Failure to warn is classed as a marketing defect, sometimes called a communications defect. It refers to the failure to provide adequate instructions on how to use the product correctly or warnings on its dangers.
Elements of Products Liability Claims
All product liability lawsuits have certain elements in common:
- Definition of product: A product is a physical or intangible piece of personal property, whether by physical labor or intellectual effort, and can equally apply to a lawnmower as electricity.
- Presence of product defect: An imperfection renders the product unsafe to use as intended.
- Proof of product defect: The product must be defective after leaving the defendant’s control, pass a test for defectiveness, and be caused by the defendant.
A products liability claim must be able to prove that:
- The product had some type of defect
- The consumer used the product as intended
- The product defect caused them harm
- The harm created damages which include things like medical expenses and pain and suffering
Proving a Defective Product
To prove that a product is defective, it must pass a test for the presence of a defect and have at least one cause. The typical test is the consumer expectation test, but another is the risk utility test. The latter involves comparing the cost of making the product safer compared to the cost of injury as a type of cost-benefit analysis.
All product liability cases have a legal cause in which the at-fault party is legally liable for the injury. A Pennsylvania product liability lawyer can help you determine if one or more causes were at play in your case.
Who can sue for defective products in Pennsylvania?
In the past, privity of contract specified that only the parties directly involved had obligations and rights. Most states no longer have this legal doctrine and only require that the defective product caused injury after being sold. Anyone who has been injured by a defective product can sue the manufacturer or seller of that product.
Pennsylvania law has a product liability act to ensure that product sellers are strictly liable for injuries and damages when it can be proven that the product has a design defect, manufacturing defect, or marketing defect. Injured consumers do not need to prove careless or negligent behavior in the product’s manufacture or sale, only that the product was defective and caused an injury.
When the defective product causes injury to someone other than a user, they have legal grounds for a third-party claim. The Restatement (2d) of Torts §402A from the American Law Institute recognizes that consumers, users, and bystanders are in a class of foreseeable plaintiffs to product manufacturers and sellers as all may be hurt or damaged by defective products.
Who can be sued in a product liability claim?
Anyone who has been involved in the chain of distribution of a dangerous product can be sued, including any or all of the following parties:
- The product manufacturer
- The parts manufacturer
- The party (individual or company) that assembles the product
- The party that installs the product
Because of the unique commercial relationship between a consumer and a seller, non-commercial sellers are excluded from products liability claims. Strict liability holds the commercial seller or manufacturer responsible as the product is part of their regular commercial business or consumer operations.
Responsible Parties in a Products Liability Claim
Anyone responsible for putting a defective product into the hands of a consumer is legally liable for injuries the product caused. This means anyone who was involved in the distribution chain can be sued for damages, but that’s easier said than done. In product liability claims involving prescription drugs, if the plaintiff cannot identify the responsible parties, then an exception to this rule called “market share liability” applies. It assigns a portion of fault to each party according to their percentage of sales in the area in which the injury occurred.
Finding the liable parties is important not only to cover your injury-related expenses, but also to make sure the at-fault parties are held accountable so that the defect does not appear in the market again. A Pennsylvania product liability attorney from Edelstein Martin & Nelson can investigate the distribution chain of a defective product and bring all responsible parties to justice.
Examples of Dangerous or Defective Products
In 2021, 11.7 million people had emergency room visits after being injured by consumer products. Depending on the product, a defect can cause injury, illness, or even wrongful death. Some examples of hazards from defective products are:
- Design defect: Children’s toys that are small choking hazards
- Manufacturing defect: A part is attached incorrectly
- Marketing defect: Incorrect instructions or no warning label
Some of the most common defective products are:
- Children’s products
- Drugs and medical devices
- Food products
- Household appliances and furnishing
- Motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts
- Counterfeit products
Famous product recalls in Pennsylvania
The FDA website has product recalls, market withdrawals, and safety alerts available for three years before they are archived. Food-borne illnesses are a major category of product recalls.
In February of 2023 in Pennsylvania, hundreds of Fresh Creative Cuisine food products were recalled after samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The Listeria bacteria can cause adverse effects from short-term food poisoning symptoms to miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women and serious and sometimes fatal infections in children, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system.
Any previous product recall may be evidence in your product liability claim. However, if no accident or injury occurred from the product, you cannot pursue compensation.
Unavoidably Unsafe Products
Some dangerous products do not have a design defect. Rather, they cannot be safe even when used as intended. They do not have an unreasonable risk of danger in their design or manufacture or from the available information or lack thereof. Although they are dangerous, strict liability cannot apply to them because they are of benefit to society. Certain types of pharmaceuticals and medical products, such as specific prescription drugs, are classed as unavoidably unsafe.
Compensation for Dangerous or Defective Products
Being harmed by a consumer product is costly physically, financially, and mentally, especially if a serious illness or a severe injury has occurred. Medical bills can quickly pile up. Victims need medical treatment, but they also need compensation for lost earnings. Plaintiffs in a strict liability claim can receive the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Out of pocket expenses
- Non economic damages, such as mental anguish from severe injury
Pennsylvania product liability entitles injured people to economic and non-economic damages. If you need to recover compensation but don’t know where to start, a free consultation from a Pennsylvania product liability attorney is the best next step to take.
Product Liability Insurance
Businesses that manufacture and sell products must have insurance to cover claims related to their business. Whereas general liability covers injuries on the premises, products liability insurance covers harm caused by the unsafe product. Damages can be quite costly as in the products liability cases of large corporations such as Philip Morris and General Motors.
The defendant in a products liability claim may argue that the plaintiff did not correctly identify the responsible party in the distribution chain or that the plaintiff altered the product or used it incorrectly. Misuse means the manufacturer could not have reasonably foreseen the consumer’s use. If you have a product liability lawyer assisting you, you will be able to rebut any defenses and strengthen your claim.
Getting Fair Compensation
It’s not uncommon to have the different parties in a distribution chain blaming each other or the defendant, and that’s where a Pennsylvania product liability lawyer can help you settle things once and for all. In our Pennsylvania product liability claims, we serve clients who have been injured by all types of dangerous products and help them recover compensation for damages.
Product Liability Settlements and Verdicts
Philadelphia product liability attorneys must have a strong reputation and successful track record with product liability cases in the state, something not all law firms have. Our settlements and verdicts testify to our experience with product liability lawsuits. In one case, our client was working on a horizontal milling machine when he sustained serious injuries to his arm and wrist. After initiating a product liability lawsuit against the machine manufacturer, the case settled out of court for $1 million. In another case, a woman’s vehicle unexpectedly caught fire after she exited it and she sustained back injuries as a result. A defective wiring harness behind the dashboard caused the fire, and our law firm secured a six-figure recovery from the automobile manufacturer.
Statute of Limitations for Product Liability
The statute of limitations for product liability claims in Pennsylvania is two years. This means that anyone who has been injured from using a product has two years from the date of their injury to pursue a claim.
With a statute of repose, there is a restriction on the number of years in which a claim for a dangerous product may be brought against the manufacturer or seller. Statute §5536 is a prohibition in which an injured person cannot file a product liability claim more than 12 years after the original purchase date. This statute is meant to account for the fact that not all consumers use the products they purchase immediately.
Let Us Handle Your Products Liability Claim
Product liability claims force companies to address dangerous products and increase consumer safety. Most injury victims would not be heard without the help of product liability attorneys to investigate, gather evidence, and negotiate with the responsible parties.
Our skilled Philadelphia product liability attorneys at Edelstein Martin & Nelson, LLP have the knowledge and experience of Pennsylvania law to obtain full compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and non economic damages. Call us at (888) 208-1810 for a free consultation.