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What is a Product Liability Claim?

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If you have suffered an injury or other damages as a result of a defective product you may have a basis for a product liability claim. This article discusses what exactly a product liability claim covers, the different, general types of product liability claims, and possible defenses to product liability claims.

What is a Product Liability Claim?

A consumer that suffers an injury as a result of a product may have a claim for defective product liability. A product liability claim holds responsible a manufacturer or seller for distributing a defective product to a consumer. Responsibility for the injury or product defect lies with every seller or manufacturer in the distribution chain. The subject of product liability suits are products that contain inherent defects, defects which then lead to harm caused to a consumer. Products under which a claim could fall include intangibles, real estate, writings, as well as tangible products. Generally, the law requires that a product must meet the “ordinary expectations of the consumer.” Liability arises when a product has an unexpected defect or there is a danger within the product and it cannot be said to meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer.

Product Liability Law

There is no federal product liability law. Product liability is strictly covered by state laws. Thus, the exact rules regarding a product liability claim vary from state to state. However, each state has commercial statutes that are modeled on the Uniform Commercial Code which contains warranty rules affecting product liability. Because a lot of states model their statutes on the UCC, most states’ product liability statutes will look similar and will contain similar elements. Depending on the jurisdiction that the claim is based, a product liability claim is usually brought under theories of negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness.

Although state’s specific product liability statutes will vary, generally a prima facie case for product liability contains the following elements: a defendant sells a product that the plaintiff uses, the defendant is the commercial seller of such a product, the plaintiff suffers an injury, when defendant sold the item was defective, and the defect was an actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

What are the Types of Product Liability Claims?

The potential for product liability claims has a broad scope. However, generally, there are three main types of categories for product liability causes of action. The three main types of categories are defective manufacture, defective design, or failure to provide either adequate warnings concerning a product or instructions providing proper use of a product.

Specifically, products with defective manufacture are those products whose defects occur in the course of a product’s manufacture or assembly. Design defects occur when the defects are in a product from the beginning prior to manufacturing, where there is something in the design of the product that is inherently unsafe. Lastly, inadequate warnings or sometimes referred to as “marketing defects,” occur when there are flaws in the way a product is “marketed” including improper labeling, inadequate instructions, or inadequate warnings.

Responsible Parties for Product Defects

Anyone in the distribution chain would be liable for any damage caused by the product. Typically those who are held responsible include; the manufacturer of component parts, assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, the retail store owner, and any other part in the distribution chain. For liability to arise the product must have, at some point, been sold in the marketplace. To recover, typically, you do not have to be the original purchaser of the product if you were injured. The standard is any person who foreseeably could have been injured by a defective product can recover for injuries but the product must have been sold to someone.

Strict liability, which means a plaintiff doesn’t need to prove that a manufacturer or other party was negligent but only that the product was defective, usually requires that the product be made in the regular course of the supplier’s business.

Overcoming Liability, Common Defenses to Product Liability Claims

Courts might use one of two different tests to determine that there is no liability for the defendant even when a product is defective. The first test is the “risk-utility” test. Under this test, the defendant is not held liable for a design defect if the evidence can show that the product’s utility is outweighed by the potential or inherent risk of harm caused by the product.

The second test is the “consumer expectation” test. Here, the test asks whether a reasonable consumer would find the defect in a product if the consumer was using the product in a reasonable manner. If a reasonable consumer would not find the defect in the product when using it in a reasonable manner then the defendant is not liable. The defendant is not liable even if the product’s flaw resulted in injury.

A common defense raised by a manufacturer is that the plaintiff substantially alerted the product after the product left the manufacturer’s control and that due to this alteration plaintiff sustained their injury. A similar defense is that the plaintiff misused a product, in a way that was unforeseeable, and that caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Another defense raised in product liability cases is used when the plaintiff was unable to identify the supplier of the product that caused the plaintiff’s injury. To be successful, a plaintiff must attribute the defective product to the party or parties who were responsible for supplying or manufacturing the product. Thus, when a plaintiff is unable to identify the correct at-fault party the defendant will not be held liable. An exception to this defense is a concept called “market share liability.” This exception applies in cases that involve defective medications. In these cases, where a plaintiff may be unable to identify which pharmaceutical company supplied the drug that injured a plaintiff, each manufacturer will be liable. The amount a particular manufacturer is held liable is in accordance with their percentage of sales in the area where the injury occurred.


Product liability actions are typically very complex and quite often, to establish legal fault upon a defendant, assistance, and testimony of experts is required.

Call Grover Law Firm

Hiring an attorney allows you to focus on your recovery. Your attorney will handle all contact with the at-fault party and their insurance company. Your attorney will work hard to get you a fair compensation. Call Mark Grover with the Grover Law Firm at 913-432-1000 to set up your free consultation today.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.