Frequently asked questions about product liability and defective products.
What is product liability?
Product liability is an area of the law that allows consumers, injured by defective products, to be compensated for their injuries or illness. A defective product can cause injuries when it fails, is improperly designed, improperly labeled, or made of shoddy materials. The liability can extend to the manufacturer, supplier, and retailer or distributor of the product.
How can a product be defective?
Under Florida law, there are at least three different product defect theories that form the basis of a successful product liability case:
· Manufacturing defects
· Design defects
· Failure to warn
Manufacturing Defects: A manufacturing defect occurs when the product that causes the injury is different from other items that were manufactured by the same defendant. Manufacturing defects result from some mishap in the manufacturing process itself, improper workmanship, or because defective materials were used in construction of the product.
Design Defects: A design defect occurs when all of the similar products manufactured by the defendant are the same, and they all have a design feature that is in itself defective and dangerous. A majority of cases claiming design defects involve injuries caused as a result of structural defects, lack of safety features, and a lack of suitability for intended purposes.
Failure to Warn: Duty to warn cases frequently arise in the areas of power tools, heavy equipment, prescription drugs, dietary supplements and other potentially dangerous products which are sold without the proper warnings. In addition, a warning will rarely shield a manufacturer from liability for a manufacturing or design defect.
What is the statute of limitations for a defective or dangerous product case?
Generally, the statute of limitations in Florida for a defective or dangerous product case is four years from the date of the injury.
What kind of claims can be brought for product liability in Florida?
There are at least three theories of liability in a product liability case:
· Breach of warranty
· Strict liability
Can a defective product come with warnings that make the product safe?
The answer is generally, no. If a product has the ability to cause injury when used by a consumer who is following the instructions and this danger could have been reasonably corrected in the design or manufacturing process, warnings do not convert a defective product into a safe product. The manufacturer cannot simply warn of unreasonable dangers that may exist in its product.
Don’t things just break from time to time?
An injury does not necessarily mean the product is defective. Product liability does result when it was produced with inferior materials based on a defective design. A well-designed item can break, but often products break because they are poorly made. Even if you have used the product in a way it was not intended, the manufacturer should anticipate any unforeseen product use and may still be held liable.
What if my product was made outside of the U.S?
Many products may be produced outside of the U.S. or a portion of the final product may have been outsourced to foreign manufacturers. However, once that product is marketed and sold in this country, the corporation making the profit is subject to domestic laws.
Who is held responsible?
When a product is sold to consumers, there is an implication, if not an outright promise, that it is safe and works as promoted. When the product fails, you may have an action against the manufacturer and everyone who distributed the product.
What can I expect to collect and what will it cost to do so?
Burnetti, P.A. takes cases on a contingency basis, so you have no out-of-pocket costs. The law firm collects their fees and costs at the time of recovery or following a successful jury trial. Damages include:
· Lost time at work
· Future impairment of loss earnings
· Past medical bills
· Future medical bills
· Pain and suffering
· Punitive damages (may be collected depending on the facts of your case)
What can I expect the other side to do?
You can expect them to blame you for your own injury. They are likely to say you didn’t take your medication as prescribed, or you failed to properly buckle up and that’s why you were injured. In order to overcome these assertions we need to prove that the product was defective, regardless of the users input. Otherwise, there is a standard for comparative fault that may allow you to recover a portion of damages attributed to the defective product.
How do we prove the other side is negligent?
You may not have to. Depending on your state, product liability attorneys may only have to prove strict liability which means we do not have to prove fault, just that the product is defective and caused your injuries.
What can I do to help with my case?
First, keep the product or make sure it is preserved. That will be the evidence we need to make your case. If you have a receipt from the place of purchase we will need that as well. Keep your user manuals or materials that came with the product. If you have photos, keep them in a secure place. Were there any witnesses and do you have their contact information? Receipts will be needed to prove your out-of-pocket cost for repairs. Keep detailed notes on everything related to the defective product.