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When faced with an injury caused by a product or dangerous drug which was improperly designed, manufactured, or maintained, it is important that you chose a law firm, experienced in handling products liability cases. The proper handling of a products liability case requires a thorough investigation by an experienced legal team to determine which organizations should be named as defendants and which legal theories should be pursued. Also, knowledgeable experts must be engaged in the case to provide testimony at trial. The products liability team at the Ritchie Law Firm has the experience to conduct a thorough investigation to make your products liability case the strongest possible.
What is Products Liability?
The law of products liability involves the liability of a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer of a product for injuries caused by that product. Consumers have rights which protect them from defective products, and manufacturers have a legal obligation to provide safe products.
Product liability law invoves only items marketed for sale or lease and only injuries which occur as a result of a defect or deficiency in the quality or performance of the product. A products liability claim can be brought against anyone in the marketing chain, from the manufacturer to the retailer. While repair persons, installers, and inspectors may not be liable for the actual failure or defect of a product, they may be liable for negligence or breach of warranties for faulty repairs, installation, or inspection which causes personal injury or property damage.
Each State has it’s own set of laws relating to products liablility cases. Although products liability law dows differ from state to state, there are usually four elements common to every products liability case. There must be:
- A marketed product
- A defect in that product
- Personal injury or property damage
- Causation (injury or damage caused by the defective product)
What is a Defect?
The word defect is often defined as a shortcoming or imperfection in an object. However, in products liability law, the term defect often has variable definitions.
Virginia courts have typically addressed the issue of defect as it applies when there is negligence or a breach of warranty on the part of one or more parties. In a products liability claim involving the negligence of another party, proof of a defect is a necessary element of establishing actionable negligence and, often, the causal relationship between the negligence and the harm.
As there are differences in the type of products liability claims (those involving negligence or a breach of warranty), there are also differences in the types of defect giving rise to a claim. Generally, the three types are:
- Design Defect
- Manufacturing Defect
- Defective Warnings or Instructions
A design defect is a deficiency in a product which has been made the way the manufacturers intended it to be made. A manufacturing defect occurs when there is a product deficiency which exists because the product is not made as it was intended. The class of defective warnings and instructions does not relate to deficiencies in the product, but rather it relates to what was not communicated, or what was not communicated adequately about the safe use of the product.
Defective warnings or instructions is a category which refers to what was communicated or failed to be communicated about the safe use of the product. This category does not relate to deficiencies in the product itself. However, Virginia courts generally group cases which fall into this category with cases involving product defects.
When a product carries no warnings or instructions or else they are deemed to be inadequate, the ensuing case is usually analyzed similar to a case involving a design defect. However, when the warnings or instructions were mistakenly not provided or contained errors, such as a misprint, the case is analyzed similar to a manufacturing defect case.
Virginia has traditionally adopted a broad definition of the term “defect,” which is applicable in every products liability case. This definition provides that a product is defective if, as produced, it is unreasonably dangerous for its intended use or for reasonably foreseeable uses. This definition incorporates the “fault” standard as utilized in negligence law. Negligence consists of doing something which a person of ordinary prudence would not do under the same or similar circumstances; or failing to do something that a person of ordinary prudence would do under the same or similar circumstances. Examples of negligence can take the form of negligence in developing or reviewing plans for a product; negligence in maintaining machines which make the product’s parts; negligence in failing to anticipate likely uses of the product, negligence in failing to properly inspect or test the product; failing to issue adequate warnings or instructions about the use of the product; or any other aspect of the manufacturing or distribution process where due care is not used.
In addition to the claims for defects found in a product, a breach of warranty claim may also be had in a products liability case. Breach of warranty arises under the law of contracts, which imposes certain “implied warranties” on the sale of goods. Such warranties include the warranty of merchantability (that the goods are in proper condition for use and free of defects), and the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose (for example, the chair must be able to support the weight of the person sitting on it). These warranties are labeled “implied warranties” because the law assumes that they are applicable even if they are not expressly stated. When a product does not meet these standards, the consumer may have the right to return it and recover the purchase price, or collect monetary damages.
Research from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that defective or unsafe products cause 29.4 million deaths and 21,400 deaths each year. You or someone you love may be injured by something as seemingly harmless as an everyday item such as a baby chair, iron, coffee maker, hand tool, air conditioner, toaster, etc. Products liability law allows consumers the ability to sue for and recover damages from manufacturers, distributors, and vendors for injuries resulting from accidents caused by their products. Nearly all products are subject to products liability law, not just those items found on store shelves. For instance, medical implants, medical devices, automobiles, tobacco, and drugs are all subject to products liability standards.
In today’s complex business world, many times one company is involved in the design of a product, while a second company manufactures its parts, and still another company is involved in assembling those parts. Then, the final product is often distributed by a fourth company and sold by a fifth one. Even a company which does not actually make a product, but merely labels the item, may be liable for any injuries caused by that product. In addition to the confusion created by the chain of companies involved, often large corporations will have subsidiary companies which are involved in some part of the process.
Products liability cases require a thorough investigation by an experienced legal team to determine which organizations should be named as defendants and which legal theories should be pursued. It is also essential in products liability to take measures promptly to preserve evidence, document the chain of custody of the product, and to enable various expert witnesses to carefully evaluate the product which caused your injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured by any product, call us at 800-277-6124. You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation.
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