Defective, Dangerous Products
When someone has been injured by a defective or dangerous product, the companies that manufactured, distributed, and marketed the product may be held legally responsible for the injuries and losses. Cases involving defective or dangerous products are called “products liability” cases.
In a products liability case your attorneys must prove one or both of the following:
- that the manufacturer did not ade quately warn consumers about the product’s possible dangers;
- that there was a design or manufacturing defect in the product that made it unreasonably dangerous.
Proving that a product was defective when manufactured may be easy. If the handlebars on a bike broke off during a ride, and afterward it was obvious that there was an incomplete weld at a critical union between the handlebar and frame, then there was a manufacturing defect. Design defects require testimony from one or more experts that the design made the product unreasonably dangerous, and that a safer alternative design was available.
Sometimes a product cannot be made safe. When that happens manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers of a product’s potential dangers and instruct them on the precautions they must take. Warnings must be designed to get the attention of a consumer or user, and clearly explain the risks.
It is not enough prove that a product was defective, unreasonably dangerous, and/or there was not an adequate warning. Your attorneys must also prove that the product caused the injuries and that the product was being used as intended (as opposed to an injury arising from a misuse by the consumer).
The most common kinds of product liability cases include:
Prescription Medication. There have been multiple, dangerous drugs that have been mass marketed and then later it is discovered that they caused unexpected risks of injury and death. Lawsuits against the Drug manufacturers have proven that the pharmaceutical industry often knew about the risks and then hid them from doctors and their patients. Drug manufacturers have a duty to warn about possible dangerous side effects of a drug without unfairly minimizing them. The pharmaceutical industry often defends itself by insisting that it is the duty of the prescribing doctor to communicate the risks of a drug to his/her patients. However, when a drug manufacturer advertises its product directly to the general public they may still have a duty to warn the public directly. Some of the more well-known products liability cases involving drugs have been Vioxx, Baycol, Fen-Phen, Paxil, Fosamax and Rezulin.
Food products. E coli, salmonella, and other potentially deadly bacteria can be transmitted through contaminated food products. The key is often being able toprove that the defendants violated sanitary guidelines or pesticide limits, they will be able to prove that the defendants were negligent.
Children’s Toys. Children are at greater risks for injury from products than any other segment of our society. Children do not have the ability to judge risks like adults, and they often have behaviors that put them at special risk. As an example, children often put toys in their mouths, stick their fingers and hands into dangerous openings, and use the toys in ways that may have nothing to do with its original design. As a result, things like leaded paint, sharp edges, and toys that can cause choking are all products that are unreasonably dangerous for children.
Power tools. Power tools often use spinning, cutting, and piercing action that can cause serious injury. Manufacturers have a duty to guard against the known risks of the tool (for example automatic guards on a circular saw) and to guard against the “foreseeable” misuse of a tool. In other words, when a manufacturer knows that workers will “misuse” a product (generally because it is easier or more efficient), they have a duty to foresee that misuse and guard against it. This cartoon illustrates the violation of a basic principle of safe design – no machine should be able to be activated if there is a hand, leg, etc. in the “pinch point”. “Safety Interlocks” are another term used to describe this concept, and they are common on machines designed by responsible manufacturers. Manufacturers also have a duty to provide adequate warnings for the known risks associated with use of the tool.
Chemical Products (including cosmetics and pesticides). Household cleaning products, cosmetics, and pesticides may include chemicals that can be unforeseeably dangerous to consumers. When injured as a result of exposure to these chemicals, there can be a claim and lawsuit for products liability, provided it is possible to prove that the manufacturer or seller knew or should have known about the dangerous nature of their product.
Recreational products. There are some products that are designed exclusively designed for recreation, and many of them are associated with risks of injury. Recreational products can run the gamut from swimming pools to trampolines to bicycles to large amusement park rides. Like other products, manufacturers and sellers must use reasonable care in making their products as safe as possible and warning about potential risks to users.