Defective products cause thousands of injuries every year. From recalled vehicles due to defective airbags, to recalled pieces of furniture due to toppling risks, too many products that contain hazardous defects are sold to the American public.
If you are injured by a defective product of any type, you may have a claim for damages against the designer and manufacturer, as well as any distributor, importer, or seller in the chain of distribution who is liable for injury caused by a defective product. However, before you file your lawsuit, it is important that you understand the three different types of product liability claims—
The first type of product liability claim is a lawsuit that is based on the defective design of a product. A civil action based on defective design alleges that the product is inherently dangerous based on its design alone, rather than an error made during the manufacture of the product. For example, a car that is top heavy – and therefore poses a high risk of rollover/tip-over – is an example of a defectively designed product.
In Florida, a product is defective because of a design defect if it is in a condition “unreasonably dangerous” to the user or a person in the vicinity of the product and the product is expected to and does reach the user without substantial change affecting that condition. A product is “unreasonably dangerous” because of its design if the product fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or when used in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer and/or the risk of danger in the design outweighs the benefits. (See Florida Standard Jury Instructions).
This means that one can potentially recover in a product liability defect design case even if they are not the actual user of the product, but rather a bystander. In this instance, strict liability—liability that does not depend on actual negligence or intent to harm—applies. Liability to a bystander does not depend on whether the defendant actually foresaw the particular bystander’s presence. See West v. Caterpillar Tractor Co. Inc., 336 So.2d 80, 89 (Fla. 1976) (finding that injury to a bystander by a defective product is often feasible).
To succeed on a claim for defective design the plaintiff must plead and prove: (1) the Defendant’s relationship to the product in question; (2) the defective and unreasonably dangerous condition of the product; (3) the existence of a causal connection between the product’s condition and the plaintiff’s injuries or damages. See Id. Some courts in Florida do require that the plaintiff show the defect existed at the time of the accident and at the time the product was in the defendant’s possession.
To prove (1) the Defendant’s relationship to the product, the plaintiff must show that the Defendant is in the business of distributing or disposing of the allegedly defective product and that the Defendant placed the allegedly defective product into the stream of commerce. See Johnson v. Supro Corp., 498 So. 2d 528 (Fla. 3d DCA 1986). In regards to the second (2) element above, a product is considered unreasonably dangerous because of its design if the product fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or in a manner reasonably foreseeable to the manufacturer or the risk of harm in the design outweighs the benefits. See Force v. Ford Motor Co., 879 So. 2d 103, 106 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004).
Manufacturing defects are the most common cause of product liability claims. A lawsuit based on a manufacturing defect alleges that the original design of the product is completely safe, but that something happened during the manufacturing process to make the product unsafe. A manufacturing defect exists if the product does not conform to its intended design and fails to perform safely as the intended design would have performed. A product is unreasonably dangerous because of its design if the product fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer, or the risk of harm in the design outweighs the benefits. see Force, 879 So. 2d 103 at 106.
For example, consider a set of tires: the tires themselves are designed to support the weight of a vehicle, resist punctures, and hold up against wear and tear – by accepted standards, the tires are safe for use.
However, during the manufacture of these well-designed tires, sawdust gets into the adhesive glue that is used to secure the tire together, resulting in a high risk of tire tread separation, tire blowout, and a serious accident.
In a product liability claim that focuses on a warning or labeling defect, the plaintiff alleges that the product had some sort of inherent danger and that the manufacturer of the product had a legal duty to warn of this danger but failed to do so. This is very common with prescription medications; a patient may take a certain medication, only to experience adverse side effects that were not disclosed by the pharmaceutical company. Strict liability based on a defective warning can apply to both unavoidably and not unavoidably unsafe products. Significantly, manufacturers are not required to warn of every possible risk, but only those risks that are discoverable in light of the generally recognized and prevailing best knowledge available. See Brown v. Glade & Grove Supply, 647 So. 2d 1033 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994). Lastly, a warning may be defective due to inadequate wording, location of the warning, or other circumstances concerning the manner in which the warning is conveyed. Id.
Warning or labeling defects can occur with nearly any type of product – consider the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee case, in which McDonald’s was sued after a customer spilled a hot cup of coffee on herself, suffering serious burns. The woman sued the fast food chain, who admitted that it had not warned customers of the nature and extent of the risk of serious burns from spilled coffee.
If you think that you may have a case against a manufacturer or distributor of a dangerous product that caused you injuries, please contact our law offices today. At the Dolman Law Group, our knowledgeable St. Petersburg defective product attorneys are here to advocate for you.
Contact us online or at 727-222-6922 today.