When a dangerously defective product causes injuries, Florida law allows an injured consumer to seek compensation for damages pursuant to the law of product liability. These cases are usually brought by alleging one or more product liability theories like:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Failure to warn
These types of defects occur at the drawing board or blue print stage of a line of products. All products in the line have the same dangerous defect. For example, a riding mower might have a guard over its blades that’s too small. If a rider’s foot slips off of a footrest and into the spinning blades, that rider can suffer severe injuries. If a design defect is alleged, it can be argued that the guard was too small for the size of the mower’s blades. It might also be argued that a larger guard at little cost could have been installed on the mower that would have prevented the injury.
With manufacturing defects, a product might be flawlessly designed, but a few products in the line come out being dangerously defective because they’re not consistent with the design. They might be defective in different ways too. Some examples of manufacturing defects might be using the wrong nuts, bolts and screws to fasten a part to a piece of machinery, contamination of medications or even a hammer that explodes when the user pounds a nail. The product must be used for its intended purpose. You can’t use a pair of pliers to pound a nail, and then complain about injuries after the pliers explode. A person who was injured by a manufacturing defect need only prove the defect along with the fact that the defect caused his or her injuries.
Failure to Warn
A product liability defendant can also be held liable for injuries by failing to give sufficient warnings about the dangers of their product. A failure to warn might also be referred to as a marketing defect. The warning might be needed to caution users about not using the product in a certain way. The product might be perfectly designed and manufactured, but it could still pose dangers to users when used in certain ways. A lawn mower manufacturer might have a warning over its discharge chute telling the user and others not to stand near it while it’s in operation. A court might look at whether there is any warning at all. Where the warning was placed and whether it was understandable through words or pictures might also come to issue.
In nearly all personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove negligence, but strict product liability doesn’t require that. Rather than proving the complex elements of negligence, a person who was injured while using a product in a manner for which it was intended need only prove:
- That the product was sold in an unreasonably dangerous condition
- The seller reasonably believed and intended that the product would reach the consumer without being altered
- The claimant was injured by the defective product
Who Can be Held Liable?
Any business that was involved in placing a dangerously defective product into the stream of commerce can be held strictly liable under Florida product liability law. Those include manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. Without inspection, a distributor might receive a dangerously defective product from a manufacturer. The distributor will then sell the product to a retailer, and the retailer will later sell the product to a consumer who is injured by it. The consumer can sue all of those businesses. The rationale for this rule is that an injured consumer shouldn’t be barred from compensation merely because he or she didn’t know who in the stream of commerce was responsible for the defect.
Strict product liability isn’t automatic upon the filing of a product liability lawsuit. There are several viable defenses for defendants. Those include:
- Misuse of the product or using it while knowing that it was defective
- The carelessness or negligence of the claimant otherwise caused or contributed to his or her injuries
- Somebody or something intervened and interacted with the product, and the product was not the actual cause of the injuries
The law of product liability is highly complex, and it almost always requires expert testimony. If you’ve been injured anywhere in Florida while using a product, contact our offices by phone or email to arrange for a free consultation with an experienced and effective product liability lawyer.
Call Fenster & Cohen, P.A. today for a legal consultation (954) 473-1500