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When is a Manufacturer or Seller Liable for a Defective Product?

Oct. 12, 2018

Defective products can cause serious injury and even death. When a product is made poorly or does not have adequate warnings, and it causes injuries, then the manufacturer may be held legally responsible. However, there are situations where the seller of the product may be liable for your damages too. In many cases, it will make sense to involve both of these parties, and possibly others, in your defective product lawsuit.

General Liability

Product defect cases are based on the concept of “strict liability.” This concept makes proving product defect claims slightly easier for victims. There is no need for a victim to show that the manufacturer was careless or irresponsible (negligent) in making the product. Instead, the focus in defective product cases is whether the product was actually defective and whether that defect caused harm.

Types of Defective Product Cases

The type of defect that you are claiming will have an effect on how you need to prove your case. There are generally three types of defects:

  • Design defects.

  • Manufacturing defects.

  • Inadequate warnings or instructions.

Manufacturing defects are the most common. These occur when something went wrong in the manufacturing process. That error made the product more dangerous than other similar products. Design defects involve a flaw in every product—it is the underlying design of the product that makes it unsafe.

Lastly, inadequate warnings or instructions fail to tell the consumer about an important aspect of the product that makes it dangerous. For example, if your hair dryer will catch on fire if you use it for more than 30 minutes, that is something that you would anticipate that the manufacturer would tell you about. If you had read and understood this warning, you likely would have made sure that you did not run your hair dryer that long for any reason.

Manufacturer Liability

Most defective product claims will involve the manufacturer. This entity is usually the first part of the distribution process. The designer may be a different party in some cases as well.

The product may also be a compilation of several individual parts too. In that type of situation, you may also want to include all of the different component makers in your lawsuit as well. Your product defect attorney will be able to tell you if that step is necessary for your case.

Seller Liability

Although a seller likely did not create a product, it can still be liable for a product defect in some situations. In fact, anyone in the product’s distribution chain may be responsible. For example, if a seller noticed that something was wrong with a product, but it did not do anything to keep it from being sold, that could result in legal liability. Failure to remove recalled items may also be grounds for a lawsuit. Sellers still have an obligation to keep their customers safe even when they did not create a product.

Your attorney will be able to help you determine who you should sue and why. There may be other entities or people that you should include in addition to those mentioned above.