Who Should I Sue for a Defective Product?

In a perfect world, all devices and products would function effectively and safely without causing harm. However, millions of Americans go to the emergency room every year due to injuries caused by consumer products. The National Safety Council found that 11 million people were treated in emergency departments in 2020 due to consumer product injuries. In some cases, these injuries were caused by defective products. If you suffer an injury from a defective product, you might be wondering, Who is liable for a defective product? You may be able to file a defective product lawsuit to gain compensation.

What Is a Products Liability Claim?

If a defective product injures you, you can file a defective product lawsuit against any entity involved in the chain of manufacturing. This includes the designer of the product, the manufacturer of the product, the wholesaler, the shipping company, and the retailer. To make this claim, you must have been using the product as intended or in a way that was reasonably foreseeable. If you injure yourself through your own negligence—for example, because you failed to read safety instructions or you used the product to do something it wasn’t meant to do—there is likely no possibility of a lawsuit.

California follows the strict liability principle. This means you need to show only that:

  • The product was defective,
  • You used the product as intended or in a way that was reasonably foreseeable, and
  • The product injured you.

You do not have to prove that the defendant was negligent to seek compensation for injury caused by a faulty product.

Types of Product Defects

Lawsuit for a defective product.Defective products cause all kinds of injuries. Some of the most frequently dangerous products include stairs, beds, chairs, and sofas. The common causes of defective products fall into three main categories: design defects, marketing defects, and manufacturing defects.

1. Design Defects

The first port of call for products liability is the entity that first designed the product. In the case of a design defect, the product’s design is flawed at the outset. This means that it was designed in such a way that it would not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect it to perform when using it as intended. For example, say a car’s brake system doesn’t have a crucial component that every other car has which allows the vehicle to brake quickly. Not having this vital part leads to the brake system consistently failing and harming passengers. In this case, a good argument could be made that the brake system has a defective design which could then provide grounds for a products liability lawsuit.

2. Marketing Defects

Consumers can place fault on the marketer of the defective product as well. This usually takes the form of a failure of a duty to warn the consumer of some danger. Another example of a marketing defect is incorrect or improper instructions given about the product. Say a marketer incorrectly advertises a medication bottle as a double dose instead of a single dose. A consumer who follows the incorrect instructions and is injured could have a products liability claim against the marketer.

3. Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects are one of the more common types of defects. This is because much of the responsibility for producing a product lies with the manufacturer. Manufacturers produce the component parts of products and the completed products themselves.

In the case of a manufacturing defect, the product is designed safely but the product is manufactured incorrectly. Usually, manufacturing defects affect only a certain number of products produced at one time. One of the most famous cases of a manufacturing defect was the GM ignition switch manufacturing scandal, in which millions of GM cars were recalled. When consumers file lawsuits, companies will often recall their products, as GM did, to limit their liability to only the people already affected by the defective product.

Limitations on Defective Product Lawsuits

The law places limits on products liability suits to fairly protect both the consumer and the producer.

Common Inherently Dangerous Products

California law exempts manufacturers for liability where:

  1. A product is inherently unsafe,
  2. The danger is commonly known to the community; and
  3. The product is a common consumer product, such as sugar or alcohol.

For example, you couldn’t sue a producer of sugar because you became obese from consuming their product.

Misuse of a Product

To benefit from product liability law, you have to be able to show that you used the product as intended, or at least in a way that was reasonably foreseeable. For example, if you used a bedside table as a step stool and it collapsed under you, you probably wouldn’t be able to get compensation in a product liability suit. Likewise, you may be unable to prove your claim if you failed to follow safety instructions, such as not wearing safety goggles while using a table saw.

Benefit Outweighs Risk

A product designer may be able to avoid liability if they can show that the benefit of the product outweighed the risk it posed. For example, if the product were a sharp kitchen knife and you sliced your hand, you would struggle to show it was defectively designed because knives are supposed to be sharp. A dull knife would not serve its intended purpose.

Who Should I Sue for a Defective Product?

To sue for products liability, you must determine where the defect lies in the chain of manufacturing. It could reach all the way back from the designer to the retailer. Alternatively, it could just be the responsibility of the marketer for not correctly warning the consumer. Another consideration to make before filing a suit is the financial stability of the parties. For example, it is often better to sue an entity with deeper pockets, such as a multinational corporation, than a small business. This is because a large corporation will more readily be able to supply you with an acceptable money settlement. No matter what, each case requires a close analysis to determine who should be held liable in a defective product lawsuit.

Call Us to Learn More

If you suffer an injury due to a defective product, do not hesitate to reach out to Henderson Law today. We have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation for their injuries. We will hear your case and fight to get the compensation you need. Contact us now.