What is Product Liability and What Products are Covered?

Dangerous and defective products of all sorts injure and kill thousands of people every year. Every consumer product that is dangerous and defective is potentially the subject of a product liability lawsuit under a legal theory called strict liability. In those cases, unlike in typical automobile injury cases, carelessness or negligence does not have to be proven. Instead, three things must be demonstrated.

You've heard about hip implant and nutritional supplement product liability cases. The drug Vioxx has also been in the news the last few years, as have many other health products such as eye solutions. Products that can and do hurt people run the gamut from children's toys that contain lead to vehicles that have defectively designed seatbelts. Since a manufacturer has more knowledge about its products, courts impose a legal duty on them to protect their consumers. As I said, the injured party doesn't have to show that the manufacturer was negligent.

To use the strict liability theory of guilt, the consumer just has to establish three things in court. First, the product, like a pickup truck, had a dangerous and defective part or characteristic that hurt you. The defect could be in the way the truck was designed or manufactured or through a failure to warn about some dangerous characteristic.

Second, the plaintiff must prove that the injury occurred when the product was being used for the purpose for which it was intended. Using a convertible to cross gullies and streams is not the manufacturer's intended use, for example.

Third, the vehicle or other product at the time it caused the injury was in substantially the same condition as when it left the manufacturer's hands. In other words, it hadn't been altered later to make it dangerous. Strict liability law has developed to give you, the consumer, a better chance to win a product liability case if a manufacturer's product injures you.

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