Companies often spend as much time and money discouraging damage and injury claims from allegedly defective and dangerous products as they do developing and producing high-quality goods.
Customers, on the other hand, hear so often about product recalls, class action lawsuits and dangers posed by everything from food additives to car airbag systems that some begin to suspect corporations rarely prioritize consumers’ health. Where things get tough for the lawyers contacted by concerned, and often legitimately ill or injured, consumers is in determining if defective product liability exists and which corporate entity, or entities, should be held accountable.
Attorney Richard N. Shapiro, a partner at litigation boutique Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan, confronts these issues as a Virginia-based personal injury lawyer. Mr. Shapiro has a unique perspective on these types of defective product claims since he holds more than 15 U.S. patents on foldable carts, wagons and baby strollers. He has worked on international product design projects from the line drawings to the 3-D plans and through to product prototype construction. Understanding exactly how a product is designed, inspected and tested is critical to accurately assessing where a defect originated on a product. Mr. Shapiro is one of only a few consumer defective product trial attorneys in the United States with this type of insight and experience.
There are at least five essential characteristics of defective product liability litigation.
1. A harm must occur.
Civil lawsuits involve torts, which is a fancy legal term for harms to a person’s body, health, property, finances or reputation. To bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer or seller of an allegedly defective product, a person must have actually suffered an injury, become sick, had their home or another possession damaged, or lost money after using a product. Typically, defective product lawsuits involve personal injury or wrongful death, not just property damage.
2. Use of a product must clearly cause the harm
Individuals must have suffered injury or death by using the product in a way that was foreseeable. This means that if they are using a lawn mower as their primary mode of transportation and get involved in an automobile collision, they probably do not have a product liability claim. However, if they are using their lawn mower to mow their lawn and it suddenly engulfs them in flames, they may have a product liability case. In fact, Mr. Shapiro handled a case involving such a scenario. A man was operating his lawn mower in his backyard in Chesapeake, Va., when it caught fire, exploded, and burned him alive. Mr. Shapiro took the case and argued in court that the mower had a defective fuel line. A Norfolk, Virginia federal jury believed him and returned a $2.5 million verdict in favor of the man’s widow.
3. Liability must exist.
Things get tricky here. Manufacturers, distributors and retail sellers all can be responsible for a defective product under both negligence law and warranty laws. Some warranty laws arise under federal law, and other warranty duties can arise under the laws of the state where the injury occurs.
Laws and regulations can also shield companies from some forms of liability. This is especially true for FDA-approved medications. Patients who experience a side effect listed in a drug’s labeling generally cannot sue the pharmaceutical manufacturer. Also, a heavily contested U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2013 prevents patients from bringing product liability suits against generic drug makers in most circumstances. Medical device and FDA-controlled product cases are complex based on many federal and state overlapping laws. To determine whether they have a legitimate product liability claim, speak to an experienced attorney who understands this area of law.
4. Negligence or warranty law must apply.
Depending on the facts, defective product lawsuits involve strict liability, warranty claims or negligence claims. Warranties go well beyond those written on package inserts or into product instructions. All states’ laws provide for the existence and enforcement of certain implied warranties. For example, a product must be fit for the intended purpose for which it was designed and marketed, and free of defects in workmanship. On the other hand, negligence law provides that a product must not be unreasonably dangerous to use when manufactured and that it must be inspected and tested before being sold.
Strict liability law exists in some, but not all, states. If strict liability applies in a state, it means that the product must not be unreasonably dangerous when used, and the defenses available to a manufacturer are limited. Basically, a strict liability claim makes it much less difficult for an injured person to hold the manufacturer and/or seller of the product accountable.
5. Damages for losses must be recoverable.
Most defective product lawsuits allow compensatory damage recovery for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain, suffering and related intangible losses arising from the claimed injury or death. In death cases, the precise type losses are controlled by the laws in the state where the death occurred.
Most states also allow claims for punitive damages against a manufacturer and/or seller if selling the product was a reckless act or done in conscious disregard of consumers’ safety. Punitive (i.e., “punishment”) damages are only available in extreme cases, and some states limit the total punitive damages that a judge or jury can assess.
Speak to an Experienced Product Defect Injury Lawyer Today
The facts of each product liability case will differ, but all will involve questions related to cause (Did the product defect cause the harm?), liability (Do warranty, negligence, strict liability or recklessness standards apply?) and resulting damages (Does proof of particular losses, injury or death resulting from the product exist?). Often, lengthy investigations, industry expertise and in-depth knowledge of regulations are required to establish the existence and interrelationship of each element. For that reason, any person who believes he or she has grounds for filing an injury or death claim against a defective product’s manufacturer, distributor or retailer should consult with an experienced defective product injury attorney.
Distributed by NetJumps International
Company Name: Shapiro, Appleton and Duffan
Contact Person: Richard
Address:1294 Diamond Springs Rd
City: Virginia Beach
Country: United States