There is a common misconception that the only proof required in relation to product liability cases is that there was a defect with a product, and an injury to the plaintiff. In practice, it is a highly specialized and expensive type of lawsuit. Industry expert witnesses need to be consulted in the field in question to help to prove that the product was defective. There are numerous ways in which to prove fault in a product liability case; through negligent act or inaction; by way of strict liability; fraud and breach of warranty.
If a lawsuit alleges product liability negligence, there are four elements that the plaintiff needs to prove in order to be successful. There must be a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. This duty of care needs to have been breached by the defendant, which has resulted in injury to the plaintiff. Finally, there must be a causal link between the harm and the defendant’s breach of duty. So which part of the case can negligence apply to? In short it can apply to anything relating to the product before it comes to market. However, in product liability cases it is difficult to prove that a defendant has been negligent whether through a positive act or a failure to act (known as an omission). Most product liability cases concern strict liability.
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The only element that must be proven in relation to strict product liability is that the product had a defect that caused injury to the plaintiff. There is no requirement for any element of negligence, nor is there any need to prove ‘fault.’ In practical terms, this means that all the manufacturer has to have done is made the product available to the consumer. This has the effect of bringing into question the fault of all parties in the manufacture and distribution chain although it is the manufacturer that must be held to account in relation to the defect. It follows that as they have the greatest control over their product they must also be held accountable for its consequences. In some cases, manufacturers have argued a controversial defense of ‘state of the art’ - this is essentially that they cannot be held liable if information only arose subsequent to the product’s manufacture.
In these cases the seller or manufacturer has communicated information to the consumer about the product that is false or misleading, and the consumer has relied on this information and has suffered injury as a result.
If a product liability case alleges breach of warranty the plaintiff must prove that the defendant caused their injury because, having asserted that the product was free of defects, they failed to ensure that it had no defects. This type of claim is different from strict liability or negligence claims because it relates to a broken contractual promise. The promise can be made explicitly or implicitly as part of the contract. When the promise is implied, it relates either to a failure to ensure that the product will be capable of functioning generally, or that the product will work for a specific purpose.
|If you may need legal assistance with a Product Liability matter , consult with a Product Liability Attorney in your area to receive a free case review.|