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Product Liability

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Sometimes, even the most mundane products we buy to enrich our lives can malfunction in catastrophic ways. When that happens, it may be due to a breach of quality on the part of the manufacturer, or because some critical piece of information about how to use the product was omitted. As in any other area of life, if you are harmed by someone else’s negligence, you have a right to seek redress.

Causes of Action

There are many different on which you may bring a suit in state. Manufacturers and sellers have a general duty of care toward the populace to not knowingly sell anything that is dangerous or defective. If that duty is breached, that seller or manufacturer can be held liable.

There are three main legal theories under which product liability suits are brought. It is not at all uncommon for more than one to be alleged in a complaint, since they do overlap. They are:

  • This is often characterized as the absence of reasonable care. If a manufacturer or seller has failed to uphold their duty to make their products safe or at least to reasonably warn of dangers, negligence can be alleged. As in many other areas of personal injury law, negligence consists of four parts: (1) the existence of a duty owed by defendant to plaintiff; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) A showing that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and (4) Actual damages suffered to the plaintiff.
  • Breach of warranty. This can be a difficult theory to understand. One might assume that this is only applicable when explicit warranties have been given, but almost the exact opposite is true – the warranties most often held to have been breached are the implicit warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, and very often a defendant is held liable when they gave no express warranties to the plaintiff of any kind.
  • Strict liability. Normally, strict liability means that the defendant’s liability does not have to be proved. It is slightly different in product liability cases – the defendant’s inherent liability still must not be proved, but in order to bring a suit under a strict product liability theory in New York, the plaintiff must establish that they were (1) using the product in the manner intended; (2) that the danger was not easily discoverable; and (3) even if it was, that reasonable care would not have prevented the plaintiff’s injuries.

Within these legal theories, several different allegations are often present. The most common routinely appear and are debated ad nauseam by courts.

Subcategories of Product Liability

The three most common allegations within a broader heading of product liability have to do with faults at different points in the manufacturing or selling process.

The first is that there was a defect somewhere in the product’s inherent design. In other words, that the product functioned as it was designed to do, but that there was a flaw somewhere in its creation. This can be somewhat difficult to prove, as it must be shown that there is either a workable alternative design, or that the manufacturer is able to warn consumers of potential dangers, and such steps are not always possible.

The second is that there was a problem or fault in the manufacturing process. In these cases the plaintiff alleges that a fixable mistake occurred in the product’s manufacture, but was not noticed until too late. The third common allegation is a failure to warn, when a manufacturer and/or seller neglected to adequately warn consumers of the possible dangers of a product, even when that product is used as intended. The most common example of this type of product liability legislation is tobacco – smokers and their widow/ers have routinely alleged that cigarette manufacturers did not adequately warn of tobacco’s dangers even when using the product as intended.

If you have been injured by a dangerous or defective product, it can feel impossible to get appropriate redress. When you seek a legal professional, you want someone with experience and knowledge. The attorneys at New York can help. We offer free initial consultations at our New York offices, where we will discuss your options with you.