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Defenses Against Product Liability Claims

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2024 | Product Liability

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Product liability holds manufacturers, distributors, and sellers accountable for product faults and injuries. Businesses facing legal issues must understand product liability defenses.

These defenses shield entities from potential product liability claims, including product abuse, assumption of risk, and modern design. Effective product liability defenses can protect organizations from legal issues.

Quick Summary:

  • Types of Product Liability Claims: Understanding negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability claims is crucial as defenses might vary depending on the type of claim brought forth.
  • Causation Defense: Defendants may argue that the product design or defect wasn’t the cause of the plaintiff’s injury, citing other factors as the primary cause, making the injury unpredictable and unpreventable by design or warning.
  • Plaintiff’s Negligence: Cases where the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the accident may impact the damages owed, potentially reducing or eliminating the defendant’s liability, especially in instances of product misuse.
  • Assumption of Risk: If the plaintiff was aware of potential risks associated with using the product but proceeded anyway, this defense might absolve the defendant from liability, especially in negligence and breach of warranty claims.
  • Statute of Limitations: The expiration of the statute of limitations for personal injury claims serves as a defense across all types of product liability actions, requiring plaintiffs to file lawsuits within a specified time frame.
  • Breach of Warranty Defenses: Defenses related to breach of warranty claims involve proper notice to the defendant or instances where the warranty was disclaimed, often necessitating written contracts for disclaimers to be effective, though less relevant in standard consumer purchases.

For comprehensive strategies in defending against product liability claims, Karp Steiger offers seasoned legal guidance. Reach out to us now to safeguard your interests and navigate the complexities of your case.

What Is Product Liability

Product liability holds manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and suppliers accountable for product faults or risks that damage consumers or users. When a product is defective and causes injury or damage, its producers or distributors may be accountable. This law protects consumers from bad items and gives them redress.

What Makes Up A Product?

Any manufactured, distributed, or sold good is a product. It includes many everyday items individuals buy or use. Products vary widely and include:

  • Consumer Goods: Items intended for personal use or consumption, like electronics, household appliances, clothing, and food products.
  • Industrial Equipment: Machinery, tools, or equipment used in manufacturing, construction, or other industries.
  • Vehicles: Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other modes of transportation.
  • Medical Devices: Instruments, implants, equipment, or tools used in medical procedures or for healthcare purposes.
  • Toys and Recreational Products: Games, sports equipment, leisure items, and entertainment devices.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Medicines, drugs, and other healthcare-related products.

The definition of a product can also extend to intangible goods or services in some legal contexts. Defenses against product liability are best navigated with legal help.

What Are The Types Of Product Defects?

Product defects typically fall into three main categories:

  • Design Defects: Design defects occur when a fault or insufficiency in the initial product design renders the entire line dangerous. Even when precisely constructed, the design fault is dangerous. To fix this, change the product’s blueprint to improve safety without reducing utility.
  • Manufacturing Defects: Manufacturing faults occur throughout production, resulting in faulty or harmful pieces within a product line, while others are OK. It could be materials, assembly, or manufacturing challenges that cause the product to differ from its design.
  • Marketing or Labeling Defects: Also known as “failure to warn,” these problems result from poor instructions, warnings, or misinformation concerning product hazards. When the product lacks labeling, safe use directions, or risk or side effect warnings.

Each defect can hurt consumers, and makers or sellers can be sued for injuries or damages. A lawyer can assist with product liability defenses if you are facing prosecution.

What Are The Defenses Against Product Liability?

Product liability defences try to reduce makers, distributors, and sellers’ legal culpability. These defences generally argue that the asserted flaw didn’t cause the loss, that the plaintiff misused or assumed risk, or that the statute of limitations has elapsed.

Defenses vary by product liability claim type, such as negligence, breach of warranty, or strict liability, necessitating unique legal tactics to refute the charges.

What Are The Types Of Product Liability Claims?

Product liability claims typically fall into three primary categories:

  • Negligence: This claim alleges that the maker, distributor, or seller did not take reasonable care in developing, manufacturing, or distributing the goods, causing harm to the consumer. Negligence requires proof that the defendant breached their duty of care and caused the plaintiff’s injury.
  • Strict Liability: Under strict liability, the attention is on the product’s condition, not the defendant’s actions. It holds makers and sellers accountable for defective product harms regardless of negligence. The plaintiff must prove the goods was defective and caused harm.
  • Breach of Warranty: A breach of warranty occurs when a product fails to meet the claims or assurances given by the manufacturer or seller. Express warranties provide precise claims or assurances regarding the product, while implied warranties impose legal expectations of quality or fitness for a particular use without explicit commitments.

Defenses against product liability are best understood when you are familiar with the common terms around it and how the process works.

What Factors Affect Product Liability Defense?

The best product liability defense strategy depends on the claim type—negligence, breach of promise, or strict liability. Proof of causation, plaintiff fault, and state-specific regulations greatly impact product liability defense techniques. Understanding these key aspects helps defend against varied product liability claims.

Negligence on the End of Plaintiff

Product liability is complicated, and “contributory” or “comparative negligence” regulations vary by jurisdiction, making it difficult for negligent plaintiffs.

When a plaintiff’s negligence causes an accident, defendants’ damages may be reduced or eliminated. Contributory and comparative negligence arise in circumstances of claimed product abuse, when states interpret product defect acts, occasionally absolving the defendant.

Assumption of Risk

In product liability cases, “assumption of the risk” applies if a plaintiff deliberately takes acts that could harm or malfunction, favoring the defendant.

This defense differs from contributory or comparative negligence because assumption of the risk is based on complete disregard for recognized dangers.

This defense applies globally to negligence and breach of warranty allegations, but strict liability claims vary by state, affecting case outcomes.

Statute of Limitations has Expired

Product liability actions are shielded by the personal injury statute of limitations. A plaintiff must file a lawsuit within this legal period or risk having the case dismissed. Product liability defenses depend on adhering to this timeframe to ensure prompt legal action for possible claims.

Product liability statutes in Ohio are usually two years. This period normally begins with the harm or when it should have been fairly discovered.

One exception to Ohio’s two-year product liability statute is injuries caused by hard-to-trace defects. In cases of gradual bodily impairment from exposure, lawsuits might begin at diagnosis. This exception extends the window beyond two years, allowing claims if the product’s damage link was first unknown despite careful attempts.

Get In Touch With A Product Liability Attorney Today!

Looking to shield your business or navigate personal challenges amid product liability concerns? Karp Steiger’s team understands the complexities and stakes involved. Our attorney offers strategic guidance and tailored defenses for product liability, ensuring you’re equipped to face legal battles with confidence.

The attorney also helps out in the following practice areas:

Reach out to safeguard your interests and navigate the legal intricacies of product liability.