When you purchase or use a product manufactured or produced by a company – whether it is factory equipment, an appliance, food, a power tool, a toy for children, an automobile, toys, sporting gear, recreational vehicles, lawn and garden equipment, furniture, appliances or anything else – you have the expectation that it is safe to use. However, companies make harmful errors and a product will cause death or severe harm to a consumer when used for its intended or foreseeable purpose. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 33.1 million Americans are injured by consumer products each year. When this happens a defective products claim may be made against the manufacturer or distributor of that product.
In a defective products case, a plaintiff (the victim’s family or the victim bringing the claim) must show:
- The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff,
- The defendant breached that duty,
- The breach caused an injury to the plaintiff, and
- The injury resulted in damages to the plaintiff.
In a defective products case there may be multiple defendants; a defendant may be a parts supplier, the primary manufacturer, or the distributor or retailer of a product. In many cases every entity in the chain of distribution may be a defendant as they all owe a duty of safety to the consumer who purchased the product.
A defective products claim can also exist when a product performs as intended and the manufacturer or supplier acted with care and without negligence, but the product has an inherently dangerous risk of harm due to its design. Due to the danger of the product, the manufacture or supplier are held to a higher standard under the theory of “strict liability”. Under the strict liability theory, the manufacturer is responsible for any harm caused by the use of the product because the manufacturer should have known that such a product would cause danger when sold to the target audience. It must be shown that the defective condition of the product made it unreasonably dangerous even when used as intended or in a manner reasonably foreseeable to its manufacturer, and that such defective product proximately caused the injury or death at issue. Under a strict liability claim, the focus is upon the condition of the product, not the conduct of the manufacturer.
A third theory under which a claim for defective products arises is under Implied Warranties. The Uniform Commercial Code establishes contract-based grounds for products liability which are recognized in Georgia.
- Implied warranty of merchantability. The product must be fit for purposes intended by the seller.
- Implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The product must be fit for the buyer’s intended use which was known to the seller.
Almost every item of personal property which is produced and then made available for purchase by an individual, business or government entity is subject to the product liability laws in Georgia and other states. Once the defective product enters the stream of commerce, the manufacturer assumes the risk of liability to the persons such product may harm.
- All consumer goods:
- toys, sporting gear, recreational vehicles, tools, lawn and garden equipment, furniture, and appliances,
- Motor vehicles including cars, trucks, minivans, SUV’s and motorcycles,
- Large machinery and equipment used in construction, farming and/or industrial manufacturing,
- Pharmaceutical and medical products:
- medicine, drugs, diet pills, medical devices, orthotics, and contact lenses,
- Perishable food and beverage products, including raw meats, raw vegetables, processed food items, and cooked foods served at restaurants.
Statute of Limitations for defective products matters:
Each state will have a statute of limitations that sets forth the number of years after injury or death which the plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. Each state’s product liability statute of limitations may be different (usually ranging from 2 – 4 years). Some states, like Georgia, also have a product liability statute of repose which places a limit on the period of time after a product is manufactured or sold during which that product can be the subject of a product liability lawsuit. In the case of an older product, the statute of repose could expire even before the statute of limitations has expired. Determining these deadlines can be a complex legal issue, so please talk to an attorney.
Defective products cases are a specialized area of practice. Michael S. Wilensky, LLC has the unique experience and knowledge in this areas to protect you and obtain optimal compensation for the harm that was caused.