A plaintiff in a product liability case is required to show that the product which caused injury was defective, and that this defect rendered the product unreasonably dangerous. For example, while a chainsaw can be dangerous, its intended purpose is to function as a chainsaw. It would not be considered to be defective simply because it's a chainsaw. However, if the state-of-the-art of chainsaw design required that the chainsaw have a safety chainsaw brake installed to stop the chain from rotating and the chainsaw break failed to work as designed, the chainsaw may be considered defective. Since chainsaws by their very nature are dangerous, manufacturers are generally required to provide instructions to users on how to properly use the product and warnings to users on how to avoid misusing the product and the dangers associated with the foreseeable misuse of the product.
There are three types of product defects that may create product liability: design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects.
- Design Defects. A design defect is a flaw in a product's design that makes it hazardous. For example: an unstable piece of furniture may tip over easily and therefore be considered defectively designed. A liability claim for a design defect often requires proof of negligence. However, if the plaintiff can show that an alternative design would have not resulted in injury and was cost-effective, strict liability may be shown.
- Manufacturing Defects. These occur when a product is not produced according to the design specifications. These cases may have a stronger evidentiary basis for proving the defect, since the manufacturer's own standards and designs can be used to show that the product was not manufactured in accordance with the specifications which rendered the product defective. However, this proof requires some presence or involvement in the manufacturing process.
- Marketing Defects. Marketing defects can include improper or insufficient labeling, instructions, or warnings. They can also include a negligent or intentional misrepresentation of a product in advertising or product documentation.
Manufacturing defects are also called unplanned defects, as opposed to a design or planned defect. Courts will often impose the strict liability doctrine in order to encourage stricter manufacturing procedures and investment in product safety.
Courts have differing rules to determine whether a product is defective. Most states require that the plaintiff prove that the product was also in an unreasonably dangerous condition, while others proof that a product was unsafe for its intended use. Many courts have combined elements of these two requirements. They therefore can hold a product to be defective if its design leads to an unreasonably dangerous condition. What constitutes an unreasonably dangerous condition is also defined differently by various courts.
Plaintiffs can also claim that the manufacturer failed to exercise ordinary care in their design and/or manufacturing process of the product. A theory that the manufacturer was negligent is a claim that the manufacturer or designer did not take sufficient and reasonable caution in creating the product. For instance, if manufacturers of consumer products are all placing a safety device on their product and this manufacture it eliminated the safety device, the plaintiff would be required to prove that a reasonable and prudent manufacturer would have to sign the product with a safety device and that the absence of the safety device rendered the product defective and unreasonably dangerous to the user.
The legal issues involved in a product liability claim differ from state to state. If you or a loved one has been injured by a product, you may be able to recover damages based on one or more of the claims for relief described above. You should consult an attorney with experience in product liability and negligence law. Your lawyer can analyze your case and determine whether the product was designed or manufactured defectively, and inform you of your legal rights.