As a business owner, it’s vital to understand product liability, as it could impact your company if any of your products cause harm to consumers. Product liability is the legal responsibility of a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer for any injuries or damages that may arise from a defective product. If your company is hit with a product liability claim, product liability lawyers can help.

What is Product Liability?

Product liability refers to the legal responsibility that a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer bears when their product causes harm or injury to a consumer due to a defect. These defects can range from design flaws, manufacturing errors, or inadequate marketing, warnings, and instructions. In such cases, the affected party can file a lawsuit against the responsible entity for compensation related to medical bills, lost wages, or other damages. Product liability attorneys can represent your business if this happens to you.

Types of Product Defects that Can Create Product Liability

Design Defects

Design defects occur when a product’s design is inherently dangerous, even when manufactured correctly. Examples of design defects include:

  • Unsafe children’s toys with small parts that pose choking hazards, or those with sharp edges that could cause injury.
  • Vehicles with a propensity for rollovers due to a flawed design, such as a high center of gravity that makes them unstable during sharp turns or sudden maneuvers.
  • Faulty medical devices, such as a pacemaker with a defective battery that could fail prematurely, leading to life-threatening consequences for the patient.

Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects occur when a product deviates from its intended design during the manufacturing process, rendering it unsafe for use. These defects can be the result of human error, faulty machinery, or inadequate quality control measures. Examples of manufacturing defects include:

  • Contaminated food products, such as packaged salads containing harmful bacteria like E. coli or Listeria
  • Furniture that can collapse and cause personal injury under normal use
  • Faulty wiring in electronic devices that could lead to overheating, short circuits, or fires

Marketing Defects

Marketing defects, also known as “failure to warn” or “inadequate instructions,” occur when a product is not properly labeled, lacks necessary safety warnings, or has insufficient instructions for safe use. Examples of marketing defects include:

  • Prescription drugs without adequate warning labels, such as those missing information about potentially harmful side effects, drug interactions, or contraindications, which can lead to serious health complications for patients.
  • Cleaning products without proper usage instructions or safety warnings, such as a powerful cleaning agent that can cause severe skin irritation or damage surfaces if not diluted correctly, but lacks clear instructions for safe handling and use.
  • Power tools without safety guidelines, like a table saw without clear instructions on how to set up the safety guard or properly maintain the equipment, potentially leading to serious injuries due to user error or equipment malfunction.

How to Avoid Defects and Liability

To minimize the risk of all types of product liability claims, business owners should implement the following practices:

  1. Maintain rigorous quality control measures during design, manufacturing, and distribution stages. This includes regular inspections, testing, and monitoring to ensure products meet safety standards and function as intended.
  2. Work with experienced and reputable suppliers and manufacturers who prioritize safety and have a proven track record.
  3. Develop comprehensive safety guidelines, instructions, and warning labels for your products. Ensure that they are clear, concise, and prominently displayed.
  4. Regularly review and update safety information and product warnings based on new information, consumer feedback, or industry advancements.
  5. Train employees on the importance of product safety and their role in maintaining it.

Who is Responsible for Product Liability?

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are just a few of the parties that can be held accountable in a product liability claim. Any of these organizations could be held accountable for damages brought on by a defective product, depending on the specifics. For instance, a merchant might be held liable for selling a product with a known manufacturing issue, whereas a manufacturer could be held accountable for a design flaw.

What is Product Liability Insurance?

A form of commercial insurance called product liability insurance shields businesses against the financial effects of product-related litigation. This insurance often pays for the price of defending against claims of product liability as well as settlements and awards. To safeguard their assets in the case of a lawsuit, companies that produce, distribute, or sell products must have sufficient product liability insurance.

Note that product liability insurance is not a substitute for product liability attorneys in the event of a claim. Contact product liability lawyers Craig Swapp & Associates for help with your product liability case.

Written By: Ryan Swapp     Legal Review By: Craig Swapp