Mesa AZ | What is Product Liability?
Products liability is a unique sector of the law that has its own set of rules and practices. If you are considering a personal injury case based on products liability, you should carefully study the ins-and-outs of product liability law and familiarize yourself with how these cases typically proceed. To that end, we are providing a multi-part series of blogs on the subject. This is Part 1, an overview, which covers answers to general questions about product liability.
What sort of circumstances could lead to a product liability lawsuit?
Just like a typical personal injury case, a product liability case begins with an injury. However, while a personal injury case might stem from such events as a car accident or a slip and fall, a product liability case can only originate from an injury caused by a defective (faulty) product. In other words, a product liability case has nothing to do with the direct action of another against you – you are suing an individual or company because they made or sold a product that was defective, and the defective product caused your injury.
If you are injured by a product and you believe the injury occurred because the product was defective, you might have a good product liability case.
What is strict liability? Is strict liability applicable to product liability cases?
A typical personal injury case revolves around negligence – a jury must find that the defendant acted negligently before it can determine that the defendant should be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. In a case involving a car accident, for example, the plaintiff will not recover damages just because the accident occurred, or even because the accident was the defendant’s fault. The jury has to find that the defendant was negligent when he caused the accident, and that the negligence is what led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
By contrast, product liability cases involve strict liability. In cases of strict liability, the plaintiff can recover damages without a finding of negligence. This means that the plaintiff can win a case and recover damages just because an injury occurred, notwithstanding what the defendant did or did not do. In a product liability case where strict liability applies, the plaintiff can recover damages from the manufacturer or seller of a defective product even if the manufacturer or seller did nothing negligent to the plaintiff.
This does not make product liability cases any “easier” than typical personal injury cases – there are still many hurdles to clear before a plaintiff can recover on a claim of product liability. Further, strict liability does not apply to every product liability claim. However, it is critical to understand the difference between strict liability and negligence in product liability cases where strict liability does apply.
What does a plaintiff need to prove to win a product liability case?
According to Arizona’s Revised Civil Jury Instructions – which are instructions based on Arizona’s statutory and common law that judges provide to juries before they decide cases – a product liability plaintiff must prove that:
The defendant manufactured or sold a product that was defective and unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the defendant’s control, and that the defect was a cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
So, a plaintiff must prove 1) that the defendant was either a manufacturer or a seller of the product in question; 2) that the product was defective when it left the defendant’s control; 3) that the product was unreasonably dangerous when it left the defendant’s control; and, 4) that the defect caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Each of these requirements has its own “sub-requirements,” so to speak, that will be covered in another blog post.
Should a potential plaintiff seek the help of an attorney in a product liability case?
Yes, absolutely. Product liability cases can be tremendously complex and time-consuming. They require unique forms of evidence and witnesses, and thus unique preparation. It would be beneficial to any potential product liability plaintiff to seek the advice of a qualified, experienced attorney in this field.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Product Liability, or other personal injury matters, call 480.461.5300. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.