We see, handle, and use hundreds of products as we go about our daily lives. From bathroom toiletries to kitchen cleaning products, televisions to cars, home decor, appliances, fitness equipment, tools, the list goes on. Before a new product comes on the market, manufacturers have the responsibility to ensure it is safe for use or consumption. Even the most thorough design process and ample testing can result in a dangerous product entering the marketplace, resulting in destruction, physical injury, and sometimes death. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports several million people visit emergency rooms each year as a result of injuries from defective products.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries caused by a defective product, Florida law entitles you to sue the liable party for damages. Product liability cases are complex and often involve multiple parties, so you need a skilled attorney to navigate these complexities. With offices across Florida, you can easily contact Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) whether you live in or near Clearwater.
Dolman Law Group’s and Sibley Dolman’s Results in Product Liability Cases
The legal team at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman have years of experience representing clients who have suffered injury because of another party’s negligence, resulting in the recovery of millions of dollars in damages. Recent case results range from more than $80,000 to $3.2 million in settlements and court-awarded damages. Each case has distinctive characteristics, making it impossible to guarantee an outcome; however, the diligent product liability attorneys at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman can investigate your injury to build a strong case, hold liable parties accountable for the wrongful actions or inaction, and pursue the best possible results for your situation.
Types of Product Defects
Florida, like most states, represents three types of product defects which might give rise to a product liability lawsuit.
This type of defect occurs during the design and conception of new products. Products with design defects are unreasonably dangerous. Florida courts use the consumer-expectation test to assess whether or not a product has a design defect. This test explores whether or not a product “performs as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or when used in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer.”
Courts, on occasion, also use the risk/benefit test to assess whether a product has a design defect, but it doesn’t carry as much weight as the consumer-expectation text. The risk/benefit analysis addresses whether the risk of danger inherent in a product’s design outweighs the benefits of using the product.
A manufacturing defect typically occurs during construction or assembly of a product, and is the result of a poor execution of a safe design. Ultimately, the product is dangerous because the actual performance of the product isn’t as safe as its intended design. A manufacturing defect might occur because of poor materials, employee error, and a wide array of other errors during construction or assembly.
Sometimes called marketing defects, information defects occur when manufacturers and other parties fail to warn customers about dangerous aspects of a product. Depending on the product, a lack of instructions, improper labeling, and inadequate warnings fall under the umbrella of information defects. Florida courts specifically recognize three types of information defects:
- Failure to warn. Florida courts consider a product “unreasonably dangerous” if the risk or harm from the product could have been avoided or reduced by providing instructions or warnings to consumers.
- Express warranty. When manufacturers, retailers, or other parties in a product’s chain of distribution falsely represent a product, the product is defective.
- Implied warranty. Courts consider a product defective when it is not “reasonably fit for the specific purpose” for which the product was sold.
Injuries From Defective Products
The marketplace is full of millions of consumer products which might be defective. The CPSC collects data and reports defective product-related injuries from a wide array of categories. Examples include chemicals, fuels, lighters, furniture, home decor, construction tools and items, kitchen and dining products, sports and recreational products, toys, and children’s products. Depending on the exact type of product and type of defect, a wide variety of injuries might occur. The CPSC reports the following injuries:
- Amputation of limbs
- Electrocutions and related injuries
- Chemical and heat burns and explosions
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Neck and back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Long-term illness or disease from toxic substance exposure
Liable Parties in Product Liability Lawsuits
Florida law refers to a products liability action which occurs when damages are “caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation, or assembly of a product.” Any party involved in bringing a product to a consumer can be held negligent or strictly liable for damages related to injuries caused by a defective product. Parties who might be held liable include:
- Manufacturer. Any organization that designs and markets a consumer product, including international conglomerates and individuals making stuff in their garage, might be held liable in a product liability lawsuit. A parts manufacturer might also be held liable when a defective part leads to injury in such things as boats, cars, trucks, and machinery.
- Distributor. If a wholesaler or distributor knowingly distributes a defective product, they might share liability with a manufacturer.
- Retailer. When customers purchase a product from a retailer, they expect products are safe for use. When retailers make claims and provide testimonials about products and their safety, they might be held liable for damages even though they didn’t construct or design the defective product.
- Licensors/franchisors. These parties are similar to retailers. When licensors market a product and franchisors represent a product, they might fully or partially liable for damages in a Florida product liability suit.
Product liability suits are complex cases which can involve multiple parties, making it difficult to determine fault. If you have sustained an injury because of a defective product, even as a bystander, you need to seek competent legal representation who can investigate the accident, determine liability, and have a firm understanding of how the product caused your injuries.
Recovering Damages in Product Liability Suits
If you have suffered an injury as a result of a defective product, Florida law entitles you to sue liable parties for damages related to your injuries. Florida awards compensatory and punitive damages in product liability cases. The court reserves punitive damages for extreme cases of gross negligence and fraud. Compensatory damages aim to help alleviate the financial burden victims face in the aftermath of injury. Damages you might recover in a settlement or verdict in your favor including the following:
- Cost of medical treatment including an ambulance ride, emergency room visit, hospital stay, surgery, X-rays, follow-up visits, and medication
- Future medical expenses when an injury from a defective product causes a permanent disability or needs extensive recovery
- Rehabilitation costs including physical therapy and other specialist visits as well as assistive devices such as canes, wheelchairs, crutches, and artificial limbs
- Lost wages for time away from work related to hospitalization, treatment, and recovery
- Future lost wages when a severe or catastrophic product-related injury prohibits the return to work, requires a reduction in hours, or forces a victim to change professions.
- Home modifications to increase accessibility such as the addition of a wheelchair ramp and the installation of handrails
- Non-economic damages including pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of quality of life, loss of consortium with a spouse, scarring and disfigurement, and any others which might apply to a particular case
If the court chooses to punish the defendant with punitive damages, they must adhere to the following caps on damages provided by Florida law:
- Punitive damages cannot exceed the greater of three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000.
- In extreme cases, especially those including fraud about product safety, the court can award punitive damages up to the greater of four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2,000,000.
Common Defense Strategies in Product Liability Suits
Florida applies pure comparative negligence to product liability claims based on negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty claims. Comparative negligence is the notion of shared liability which the court uses to assess the extent to which a plaintiff might be at fault for their own injury. The court applies a percentage of fault to each party named in a lawsuit and reduces damages accordingly. For example, if you sue for $800,000 and the court finds you are 25 percent at fault for your injury, you can only collect $600,000 under Florida law. Keep in mind that many product liability suits might include two or three different types of claims; even in some strict liability claims, courts might apply comparative negligence, but many times they do not.
Legal defense teams in product liability suits use comparative negligence as a way to shift blame to victims to help their clients avoid making large payouts for damages. Some tactics include:
- Suggesting the plaintiff used the product outside of its intended purpose
- Suggesting the plaintiff made changes or modifications to the product after purchase
- Suggesting the plaintiff did not read instructions or warnings about use
- Suggesting the plaintiff should have known the hazards associated with the product
A seasoned product liability attorney who has represented clients who have suffered injury from many types of products can anticipate these defense strategies, fight against them, and diligently pursue justice against those whose negligence caused you harm.
Statute of Limitations in Florida Product Liability Suits
If you, your child, or another loved one was harmed by a defective product, you have four years to take legal action against liable parties. Florida law does, however, allow for discovery. This means the statute of limitations time clock starts from the date you discover your injury or the date you should have reasonably discovered your injury. Toxic chemical exposure is an example of a defective product situation in which you might not know you contracted an illness or disease for some time after exposure.
Florida law also has a statute of repose for products with an expected useful life of 10 years or less. The law states you cannot file a lawsuit if your injury or harm occurred more than 12 years after the original owner purchased the product. In the event a defective product has led to the death of your child or spouse, you might be able to recover damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit, as long as you take legal action within the two-year statute of limitations window for Florida wrongful death suits.
Call a Skilled Product Liability Lawyer in Clearwater
Product liability can include multiple defendants and sometimes, multiple plaintiffs, making them messy and complicated. Severe and catastrophic injuries can devastate victims and their families when they result in permanent disability or terminal illness. Those who suffer injury cannot work while medical bills pile up as treatment continues. The aftermath of a serious injury adds financial, physical, and emotional stress to the injured party and their family.
We understand the challenges families go through and are here to help you through this difficult time. Companies who make, market, and sell defective products need to be held accountable for their negligence so future consumers aren’t harmed. We can handle the details of your case, investigate your accident, negotiate with insurance companies, and take your case to court when settlement isn’t an option.
If you live in the Clearwater area, you can reach Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH). We serve injured clients throughout Florida to help them seek the compensation they deserve when they are harmed by a defective product. Contact us at Dolman Law online to schedule a free consultation where one of our experienced personal injury attorneys will evaluate your case and determine your best course of action.
If you choose us to represent you, we handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. This means you don’t have to pay our fees out-of-pocket; instead, we recover attorney fees from any settlement or court-awarded damages you receive.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756