What You Need to Prove in Defective Product Cases

defective product casesBecause of a few highly publicized incidents (some of which never really happened), many people don’t take defective product cases seriously. But they should.

As a consumer, the manufacturer of a product owes you a duty of reasonable care. If they fail to exercise that care in making their product, and you sustain a serious injury or loss during normal use, they’ve also failed you. You therefore have the right to sue.

In Orange County, Russell & Lazarus APC is the go-to legal firm for all product liability claims. Call us for a free consultation at (949) 851-0222.

What Is “Monetary Loss”?

Suppose the blade of your brand-new lawnmower breaks unexpectedly while you’re mowing your lawn and damages your classic sports car. It will be expensive to fix, so you’ll face a monetary loss because of the incident. If the blade embeds itself in a tree, however, you’ve suffered little or no loss.

But Shouldn’t the Manufacturer Pay No Matter What, If Their Product Breaks While I’m Using It?

Not necessarily. In the U.S. legal system, you, as the plaintiff, bear a stiff burden of proof. You’ll have to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

What Counts as a Defective Product Case?

A defective product is one that fails during reasonable use because of flawed construction or bad design. If you shoot yourself in the leg because you put a loaded pistol in your pocket, that doesn’t count. The same goes for accidentally dropping a sharp kitchen knife on your foot.  But if you’re shooting at a pistol range with standard rounds and the pistol explodes, you have a reasonable product liability claim. Similarly, you have a case if your knife handle breaks while you’re cutting vegetables, and the blade slices your hand.

What Do I Have to Prove in Defective Product Cases?

You and your personal injury lawyer will have to prove that:

You Suffered Injury or Loss

You must have suffered physical injury or monetary loss in the accident. Almost isn’t enough. Even though the lawnmower blade in the earlier example could have hurt you or your car, if it embedded itself in a tree, you have no claim.

The Injury or Loss Occurred Because the Product Was Defective

If the lawnmower blade broke because you took it off to sharpen it and failed to tighten it down properly, you have no case. If it broke for no obvious reason, you might. In order of descending provability, you can claim the defect was caused by:

  • A manufacturing error. The blade might have been improperly forged, leaving the metal brittle. Or, it  might have developed a crack that inspectors didn’t catch.
  • A design defect that made the product unreasonable dangerous. “Unreasonable” is the key word here. Accidents, clumsiness, and bad judgment don’t count.
  • The manufacturer failed to warn you of a possible hazard. Most products come with hazard warnings affixed, and their manufacturers fill their user’s guides with warnings. The manufacturer can’t think of everything. They expects you to practice common sense when using their product.

The Product Defect Caused the Injury or Loss

The defect itself, not a secondary effect, must have caused the injury. When mowing your lawn, an unexpected blade breakage that damages you or your car is actionable. A rock or croquet ball you ran over is not, even if the blade then broke and hurt you. The defendant’s attorney can reasonably argue the blade was fine until you ran over the object.

You Suffered the Injury or Loss While Using the Product as Intended

Using a product the wrong way won’t get you much sympathy. You have to have been using the product the way the manufacturer intended. In your mower broke for no apparent reason while you were mowing, you have a case. If it hurt you while you were using it to mulch a pile of leaves or dead plants, you might have a case. If it hurt you while you were crossing a gravel path with it running, you’re out of luck.

Contact Us About Your Product Liability Claim

If you believe a defective product has caused you injury or loss, call Russell & Lazarus APC at (949) 851-0222 today. Our product liability attorneys will help you determine whether you have a case. We’ve successfully prosecuted many defective product cases, making our firm the logical choice to help you take a stand for your legal rights.

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