Most people don’t think about it when they’re shopping, but every time you buy a product you count on it being safe. Consumers simply have no way to tell if the product is safe until, at the very least, they get it home and begin using it. Even then it may not be possible to tell if it’s defective until the defect makes itself known through a malfunction. The people who made and sold it, on the other hand, have a much, much better chance of knowing whether it’s safe and understanding how to make it safe.
We all use products of all kinds. Since a defective product has the potential to kill you or to cause severe and permanent injury, society has a strong interest in ensuring that the products made available are safe. That’s why products liability law allows injured consumers to recover damages simply by showing that the product was defective, a concept known as strict liability. There’s no need to establish all the elements of a negligence claim.
The Three Wrongs That Justify Compensation
There are three ways that a product can be deemed defective:
- When the very design of the product makes it dangerous to use
- When the product was manufactured in a way that makes it dangerous to use (i.e., defective materials, inadequate bonding of parts)
- When the product is dangerous if used in specific ways and the manufacturer fails to provide an adequate warning about how it should be used
Anyone in the Supply Chain May be Responsible for Damages
Products typically reach consumers after traveling through a lengthy “supply chain” that starts with the manufacturer and ends with the person who sold it to the consumer. In between, there may be any number of distributors, suppliers, wholesalers and such. Products liability law makes every one of those parties potentially liable.
Proving the Claim for Recovery
A products liability case requires that you prove four separate things (known as “elements” in the legal world:
- You did suffer an injury
- A product that was defective in one of the three ways described earlier was put into the supply chain
- That defect is what caused your injury
- While you were using the product in a way that it was intended to be used
You Can’t Misuse the Product
A key point in products liability cases is that liability exists when the product is dangerous if you use it the way the product was intended. If you buy a kitchen chair, it has to be safe to use as a place to sit during ordinary activities. If you sit down to a plate of pasta and the chair falls apart because some defective wood splinters, the chair isn’t fit for its intended purpose. If, on the other hand, you use two chairs to support a 1,500 pound piece of machinery, and one chair breaks, there is no basis for claiming that the chair was defective. The manufacturer had no way to know that its chairs would be used that way, never intended that they be used that way, and had no reason to make them in a way that would support that much weight.
But, even misuse by the consumer may not prevent liability if the manufacturer knew that the product was being misused. An experienced Maine products liability attorney may be able to establish that the manufacturer knew that it was being used in a specific way, and didn’t make it safe for that use or issue prominent and clear warnings against that use.
Once a products liability claim is established, the injured consumer is entitled o whatever damages came about because of the defect. That certainly includes the cost of medical care, compensation for any pain and suffering, and whatever income has been lost because of the inability to work.
Get Legal Help in Maine
While strict liability is easier to establish than negligence, products liability cases can still be very lengthy and complex. It may be very difficult to prove that the manufacturing was defective. Claims of a defective design are almost always technical and involve testimony from and testing by many experts. Whether warnings are adequate can be very subjective. Experience with these kinds of cases goes a long way toward simplifying and shortening the case.
At Maine’s Jabar Injury Law, we have more than 35 years experience in personal injury cases, including products liability claims. We have recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients, both through negotiated settlements and trial verdicts. Other lawyers respect our record and our reputation enough to refer many of their clients to us.
If you have, or think you may have, a products liability claim, call Jabar Injury Law for a free consultation.