In order for liability to be established in relation to a products liability case, the product in question must have a defect. A defect is an imperfection or fault that makes intended use for the product unsafe. There are in essence three types of defects that a product can have:
If the product has a defect at its conception then this will affect the entire process subsequently. This means that even if the product is manufactured perfectly the inherent fault will still be present. The plaintiff must prove that there was a defect in the design and that it was the defect that caused injury or death.
This relates to the way in which the product was made. In this instance the design could be perfectly adequate but the execution is at fault. This does not stop purely with the product itself, and could apply equally to the packaging of the product. Another way in which the manufacturing process could be defective would be if several pieces were designed and manufactured correctly, but then assembled improperly which caused a defect in the finished product. In case of a manufacturing defect the plaintiff will have to prove that there was a defect in the way the product was manufactured and that it was this fault that caused the injury or death.
Although the product itself may have no faults, either at the design or manufacturing stages, the instructions issued with it may be insufficient to enable the consumer to use the product safely. Alternatively there may be inadequate warnings (or no warnings) about the risks associated with the product. Similarly, the marketing of the product could have been misleading and a manufacturer has a duty to ensure that product's advertising is accurate. Often manufacturers will try to rely on the provision of disclaimers but these are not always sufficient.
If a defect is discovered after sale, the manufacturer still has a duty to warn consumers about the problem. This is often seen in practice when a manufacturer issues product recall or refit notices, e.g. laptop computer batteries. This post-sale duty can continue for a long period of time after purchase, but varies depending on the nature of the product. If the product is likely to be used over a long period of time and has a considerable ‘shelf-life', such as a piece of machinery then this duty will last longer than it would in relation to paperboard cartons.
If you or someone you know has been harmed by a product in any way, a personal injury lawyer can help you assess the details of you case.