Dangerous and Defective Products
When a product is placed on a store shelf or online, consumers have a right to assume it will be safe for use.
Unfortunately, product designers, manufacturers and distributors sometimes fail to keep up their end of the deal.
When products don’t work as advertised or are inherently dangerous even when used properly, injuries inevitably result. The veteran product liability lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, have committed decades to protecting the rights of consumers and families by holding accountable large manufacturers that create and sell dangerous or defective products.
These companies and their insurers too frequently place profits before people. Both Florida and federal laws are clear when it comes to obligations and responsibilities of product designers, manufacturers and retailers. We work tirelessly to ensure your rights and interests are upheld under these laws.
Such claims fall under an area of law known as product liability. F.S. 768.81 (d) defines product liability as a civil action that is based on damages caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation or assembly of a product.
The fact that virtually every industry has been subject to product liability litigation at some point reveals the pervasiveness of such problems. Some examples include:
- Motor vehicle products (air bag defects, seat belt failures, seat back collapses, malfunctioning pedals, faulty ignition switches, etc.)
- Food products (foreign objects in foods, contamination, etc.)
- Home maintenance products
- Pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medicine and nutrition supplements
- Child and infant products (toys, cribs, car seats, clothing, etc.)
- Lawn and garden equipment
- Construction tools and materials
- Sports and recreational equipment
- Housewares (blenders, vacuums, etc.)
The societal cost of defective products is astronomical. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that among children age 5 and younger, there were an estimated 75,000 ER-treated injuries associated with defective products in 2013. Between 2009 and 2011, there were nearly 340 children whose deaths were associated with nursery products. Also in 2013, there were approximately 257,000 toy-related injuries among children 15 and younger.
When we start to factor in all the injuries and deaths of other age groups associated with defective cars, construction tools, lawn equipment and other items, the monetary cost easily reaches into the billions each year.Product Liability Claims
Liability theory in a Cape Coral or Fort Myers product liability case will depend on the kind of defect and whether the company provided any risk warning to consumers.
Generally, there are three types of product liability claims:
- Strict liability
- Breach of warranty
In a negligence claim, the plaintiff has to prove that the careless design or manufacture of a product directly resulted in injury. One must show the defendant had a duty to sell a safe product, that this duty was breached (particularly if the defendant knew the product was faulty or defective), and that a defect proximately caused the plaintiff injury.
When developing a product, designers and manufacturers are responsible for making sure the design is safe, that the product is put together with quality materials, that the product is adequately tested and inspected, that all reasonably foreseeable uses are anticipated and that the product isn’t rushed to market before all safety considerations are addressed.
In strict liability claims, plaintiffs need only show there is some aspect of the product that is defective and injury was sustained as a result. Consideration of whether the designer/manufacturer exercised due care and caution is largely irrelevant. If there is a defect and resulting injury, a defendant can be held strictly liable. These kinds of claims will only work for products purchased firsthand (not those bought at garage sales, thrift stores or consignment shops).
Breach of warranty claims focus on whether the designer/manufacturer breached its promises to the consumer. Any time a product is sold, there are two kinds of warranties: express and implied. An express warranty is a stated or written promise or representation made by the retailer or manufacturer regarding the product. An implied warranty is a promise or representation not necessarily stated, but one that is implicit in all product sales—that a product, if used as intended, will not cause harm.Legal Challenges in Product Liability Litigation
Companies can overcome these assertions if it is shown they provided proper warnings or instructions or if the consumer did not use the product as intended.
Another significant challenge in any product liability case is the issue of causation. That is, consumers have to prove injuries sustained were directly caused as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty. The two essential elements that must be proven are causation-in-fact and foreseeability.
To prove causation-in-fact, the plaintiff needs to show that “but for” the defendant’s negligence or defect, injury would not have occurred. In cases where more than one cause may have factored into the injury, it is sufficient for the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence was a “substantial factor” contributing to the injury.
To prove foreseeability, a plaintiff has to show that circumstances leading to the injury were a natural and probable consequence of the defendant’s conduct.
Our experienced Fort Myers product liability attorneys understand the burden of proof necessary to win such claims, and we are dedicated to fighting for the best possible outcome for our clients.
If you or a loved one has been injured in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation.