Product liability claims result from injuries or damages caused by a defective product. In order to prove a valid defective goods case, the law generally requires that it meet all the following criteria:
- One was injured or suffered loss.
- The article is defective.
- The injury or loss is a direct result of the item defect.
- The object was used as intended.
One must understand each element to best evaluate one’s position.
Injury or Loss
Without actual injury or damages caused by a defective good, one is missing a critical component of product liability claims. It is not enough that a piece is defective or dangerous and could have caused injury. For instance, if a laptop overheats and smokes due to faulty wiring on its first intended use, but does not cause bodily injury nor loss or damage of anything in its surrounding area, there is no ground for a lawsuit. There must be actual injury or loss.
One needs to prove that the commodity is defective. The degree of difficulty in meeting this element depends upon the type of claim. Common types of product liability claims include manufacturing error, dangerous design, and failure to warn. Proving a laptop is flawed because of an assembly error, for example, may be relatively simple. On the other hand, if one was to assert the laptop was manufactured correctly, but the design was flawed, the case may prove more difficult. In such instances, one would most likely need to demonstrate that the design created unreasonable danger. And a manufacturer is not necessarily liable for injuries because a material is dangerous. A curling iron can cause burns, and is inherently dangerous in a way, but it is not unreasonably dangerous for its intended purpose. One would generally be more successful in arguing that the dangerous aspect of an item is not obvious to a typical consumer. In such circumstances, the suit would depend on whether the manufacturer provided adequate warnings and instructions.
Defect Caused Injury
One must demonstrate that an injury or loss was the direct result of the defective good. In some cases, this is fairly straightforward. Other cases may prove more complex. For example, if one owned a yoga mat known to lose its “stickiness” in hot yoga classes, and used it during an hour and a half steamy, hot yoga session, the manufacturer could argue the accident was the fault of the owner’s perspiration and not the mat.
In general, one must use an item as it was intended by the manufacturer. If one were to use a yoga mat as a “rug” for an entry way and slipped, for instance, it may be more difficult to meet this criteria. This does not mean that to have valid product liability claims, consumers need to follow manufacturer specifications to the letter. If a manufacturer can expect that an ordinary consumer may reasonably use an article in another way, this element will most likely have been met.
Laws vary state by state, so it is always best for one to consult with an attorney who specializes in product liability claims.