Product Liability - Defective Products
Product liability refers to actions for injuries suffered as the result of a defective product. This includes actions against product designers, manufacturers or distributors. These cases can include almost any product from button batteries, car tires, baby toys, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and industrial machinery.
Dwyer & McDevitt has handled a wide range of product liability cases in Chicago including defective chairs and wheelchairs, insufficient data sheet for a commercial cleaning product, a lift gate on a commercial vehicle which failed amongst others.
Strict Product Liability
Strict product liability refers to fault that is imposed without regard to proof of negligence. To recover under strict product liability, the plaintiff must prove that an unreasonably dangerous condition or defect existed in the product, that the condition existed at the time the product left the manufacturers’ control and that the condition was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiff may create an inference that the product was defective by direct or circumstantial evidence that there was no abnormal use of the product, that there was no reasonable secondary cause of the injury, and that the product failed to perform in the manner reasonably expected.
What is a “Defective” or “Unreasonably Dangerous” product?
A product is unreasonably dangerous or defective if it fails to perform in a manner reasonably to be expected in light of its nature and intended function.
Products can be defective and unreasonably dangerous in any of three ways. First, a product may contain a manufacturing flaw. Second, the product may be defectively designed. Third, the product may have an information defect such as inadequate warnings, directions or instructions.
A particular unit of a product may be defective because of an imperfection resulting from some miscarriage during the manufacturing process. Examples include an automobile with defective brakes or an imperfection in a surgical rod.
A product may be defective because its design renders is unreasonably dangerous. In that case, all units of the same design are defective.
Defective Warnings and Instructions
A product also may be unreasonably dangerous because of a failure to adequately warn of a danger or a failure to adequately instruct on the proper use of the product. When a danger is obvious and generally appreciated, there is no duty to warn of that danger. A defendant has no duty to warn of risks of which it neither knew nor should have known at the time the product was manufactured.
Who May Be Strictly Liable?
In order to be subject to strict product liability, a defendant must be engaged in the business of placing such products in the stream of commerce. Any person in the chain of distribution of a product, including the manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and commercial lessors may be strictly liable for any defect. Whether a strict liability action may be maintained against the distributor of a product depends upon the specific circumstances of that distribution and status of the manufacturer.
Although strict product liability generally extends to sellers of all products, strict liability may not extend to sellers of used products under certain circumstances such as when the sale is an isolated sale and not something that the seller was in the business of distributing.
Negligence Actions for Defective Products
In addition to the law of strict liability, actions may be brought against product manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers or commercial lessors based upon their negligence. A product manufacturer has the duty to exercise reasonable care and caution in the design, manufacturing, warning and distribution of its products. The suppliers, distributors and retailers have a similar duty to exercise reasonable care and caution in the sale of the product. A failure to exercise such care is negligence. A plaintiff may recover for injuries suffered as a result of such negligence of a product manufacturer for the injuries proximately caused by the negligence.
We have experience handling complex product liability actions against product designers, manufacturers and distributors. This includes securing a settlement of $2,950,000.00 for a plaintiff injured as the result of the negligent design and maintenance of a wheelchair, the recovery of $1,200,000.00 on behalf of a person injured after inadequate warnings were conveyed for a dangerous product and $750,000 for a client who suffered fractured feet and complex regional pain syndrome as the result of a lift gate malfunction. If you believe you have been injured as the result of a defective product in Chicago, please contact Dwyer & McDevitt for a free case evaluation.