Who is at Fault for a Product Malfunction?
Sadly, there are many defective products on the market right this very minute. The only problem is, consumers do not know about them yet. These products might injure a few – or dozens – before a recall is issued and manufacturers pull the products from the shelves.
When a product malfunction is the cause of an injury, you may wonder who is responsible. In most cases, the at-fault party is the manufacturer. However, determining the true at-fault party comes down to whether it was a manufacturing defect or design defect.
How the Law Governs Defective Products
Product defects involve one of three categories: design, marketing, or manufacturing defects. Marketing defects typically involve inadequate warning labels or a marketed off-label use for a product that causes an injury.
Today, we are focusing on the two more common types of defective product lawsuits: design and manufacturing.
Design defects are unintentionally planned. This means that the design was planned, and the defect was part of the design – but unintentional. Something about the design itself makes the product inherently dangerous. The designer or seller can be held responsible for this when they knew, or should have known, that the product could cause a hazard.
A manufacturing defect, however, is unplanned. These defects occur somewhere in the assembly line, and could even involve a third party who made one component of the product itself.
Design Defects versus Manufacturing Defects: How Do You Decide?
Manufacturing defects are not something that the company plans on. Under product liability laws, the manufacturer is still responsible for any defects that occur during this phase – regardless of how cautious they might be.
Courts hold manufacturers to a strict liability standard because they hope that this strictness will encourage other manufacturers to be cautious about any product that leaves their facility – including implementing better quality control and assurance programs if necessary.
When a product has a manufacturing defect, forcing a plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there was such a defect is next to impossible. It would require a slew of experts and endless research to find the defect – and then prove it came from the manufacturer. That is why the courts use strict liability.
Strict liability holds manufacturers responsible and removes the burden from the plaintiff.
Design defects are a different story.
Strict liability does not usually apply in a design defect case. Instead, a plaintiff must prove that the company’s design implementation was defective. They must show that even if the product was created in accordance with the original design, it had an inherent flaw or danger.
Note, a dangerous product with a high risk of injury is not automatically defective. For example, a knife is a dangerous product, but when used properly is not as dangerous.
Decoding Product Liability Law is Best Left to the Experts
As you can see, product liability law is very complex. While you have protections under strict liability, not all defect cases involve strict liability. Furthermore, these types of cases typically involve more than one defendant – whether it be the manufacturer or someone else in the distribution chain.
With so many factors at play, you need an attorney to help you through this complicated process and succeed at winning the compensation you deserve.