Product liability law is a type of personal injury law that gives victims a legal cause of action when they’re hurt because of a dangerous product. People and corporations who make products must make products that are safe. Products liability is the area of law that governs what manufacturers must do to protect public safety and what rights victims have if they’re hurt because of a defective product. Product liability law is also called products liability law.
Product liability law is part of personal injury law
Product liability law is one part of personal injury law. Personal injury law gives victims a civil cause of action when they get hurt because of the negligence of others. Products liability is a subset of personal injury law that deals specifically with defective products. Many standards and rules for products liability law are like all other personal injury cases. However, in some ways, there are higher standards to protect victims who are hurt when products malfunction.
The area of product liability law
The purpose of products liability law is to require product manufacturers to bear the financial burden of producing a dangerous product. A person or corporation that makes a product is responsible when it malfunctions. The law makes the assumption that it’s more fair to require the product manufacturer to pay for the victim’s damages than to make the victim suffer the losses of getting hurt by a defective product.
What ways can a product be defective under products liability law?
There are multiple ways that a manufacturer can create a legally defective product:
- Breach of express warranty – A manufacturer often includes warranties along with their product. For example, if you buy a new car, the manufacturer might include a warranty that all of the parts work for three years or another period of time. If a part breaks, the manufacturer might promise to fix it for free for the period of time covered under the warranty. A breach of an express warranty can amount to a defective product.
- Breach of implied warranty – All products include an implied warranty. When you buy a product, it must work for the purpose it’s intended. For example, if you buy a skillet, you expect to be able to cook with it. If it starts on fire, you have a defective product. The products that you buy must work for the main purpose of the item and for other reasonably foreseeable uses. If a product fails to work like you expect it to, a defective product claim may be the remedy.
- Design defect – Even if a product turns out as it’s intended, a manufacturer must still take care to design products that are safe for public use. A design defect occurs when a manufacturer designs their product in a poor way. To win a defective design case, the victim must show that the manufacturer could have designed a better product based on other designs that are available or possible at the time.
- Manufacturing defect – A manufacturer bears liability when there’s an error in the manufacturing process. It’s not enough for the manufacturer to take reasonable care during the manufacturing process. Instead, the manufacturer is strictly liable if there’s an error in the production process that causes harm to a victim.
How to prove a products liability legal claim
Like other personal injury cases, the victim of a defective product must prove that the product defect is the cause of their injuries. The victim must prove all of the elements of negligence including a duty to create a careful product, a defect, a link between the defect and injuries and damages. If a product is defective, a victim may have consumer rights, but there must be an injury for the victim to have a products liability claim. Unlike other personal injury negligence cases, the victim doesn’t have to prove why the product is defective. It’s enough to show that the product is defective. Information about how a product is defective is most likely in the hands of the product manufacturer, so the victim doesn’t have to prove what went wrong. This type of liability is called strict liability. The manufacturer is strictly liable for putting a defective product into the stream of commerce even if the victim can’t show how the product became defective.
Areas of products liability law
Attorneys who practice products liability law must be skilled in a number of different areas of law. Products liability law requires mastery of a diverse skill set that includes all of the following legal topics:
- Alternative Dispute Resolution – Most products liability claims aren’t tried in front of a jury. Attorneys in the field must be skilled at pursuing alternative dispute resolution. Mediation and arbitration can be important case resolution resources for skilled attorneys.
- Appeal Work – A case may not end at trial. Appeal cases are critical to developing products liability law. Appeals are a critical part of legal advocacy for products liability attorneys.
- Jurisdiction – A victim might be hurt by a product that malfunctions miles away from where it’s produced or sold. A case might involve multiple victims. Knowing where to file a claim or how to challenge jurisdiction may be crucial to advocating effectively on behalf of a client.
- Pleadings and Motion Drafting – A successful pursuit or defense of a products liability claim often comes down to pleadings. An attorney must carefully plead all causes of action in an initial filing document. Likewise, the response must contain all possible defenses. Written motions and accompanying briefs may be critical for a client in a products liability claim. Products liability attorneys need outstanding research and writing skills.
- State and federal law variations – Although products liability laws may be similar between states, each state has its own common laws and statutes that apply to products liability cases. Products liability lawyers must also know how to determine what body of law applies to a claim.
- Trial Advocacy – Case building, knowledge of the rules of evidence and persuasive speech are all critical parts of trial advocacy. An attorney in the field must know how to present a case in court effectively. A products liability attorney must be able to respond to changing circumstances during trial.
Who practices products liability law?
Products liability lawyers are both plaintiff attorneys and defense attorneys. Plaintiffs attorneys work for law firms, and defense attorneys may work in private practice or as in-house counsel. Some products liability law may be complex and require the resources of a large law firm. Plaintiffs attorneys may serve their clients in solo practice or in firms with many attorneys. Products liability law is civil law, so products liability lawyers are civil lawyers. Products liability attorneys live and work throughout the United States. Attorneys who practice in the area of products liability law must have a diverse skill set. A case often comes down to written pleadings and careful research. In addition, products liability lawyers must be able to conduct a trial and negotiate in alternative dispute resolution. Products liability lawyers are trial lawyers with a diverse set of legal skills that are related to pursing and defending civil negligence claims. While some attorneys focus only on products liability cases, many lawyers practice products liability law as part of a broader practice of personal injury law or all types of civil law.
Why become a product liability lawyer?
Products liability attorneys have the opportunity to practice civil law that involves both written legal advocacy and courtroom appearances. Products liability cases offer an opportunity to help victims who are hurt by defective products or defend product manufacturers from invalid claims. In addition, products liability cases help make products safer for all of society. There are products liability attorneys who live and work throughout the United States and for law firms and corporations of all sizes, so attorneys have a great deal of choice when it comes to how to practice products liability law and where to work.
Practicing product liability law
When you purchase a product, you have the legal right to a safe product that works as intended. Products liability lawyers both enforce that right and defend against products liability claims. For attorneys with a diverse skill set that includes written and oral advocacy, products liability can be an excellent career path that provides a rewarding challenge.