What is Product Liability?

Product liability falls under the heading of tort law. It is an area of regulation that assigns the responsibility for introducing safe and harmless consumer products to the general public. When cases of product liability are brought before the court, they frequently involve the manufacturers of the goods, the distributors or suppliers, sometimes also the retailers or independent sales agents.

A big part of product liability involves legal action due to faulty air bags, improperly designed cars, such as the famous SUV rollover cases, lead poisoning because of children’s toys, groundwater contamination and also defective appliances. Cases of product liability — at times — also touch on different areas of litigation, such as personal injury cases, wrongful death suits and class action consumer suits for fiscal compensation.

Even as consumer protection is at the heart of a good many product liability litigations, at times it is a company’s failure to honor its warranties that becomes a hotly debated issue. A breach of warranty affects a large class of consumers and oftentimes results in far-reaching product recalls, fix-it kits that are made available to affected consumers free of charge and also the discontinuation of a product. The latter occurred just recently when side-drop cribs fell into disrepute over the infant deaths and provable injuries they caused.

While a consumer considering a product liability action may not always understand all the legal options, a highly skilled attorney who specializes in this area of tort law is quick to separate issues of manufacturing defects from potential design defects and marketing defects. Occasionally a product liability case may fall into the category of a ‘strict liability’ case, which actually affects all manufacturers, distributors and retailers of a product, whether an individual brand is involved or not.

In a few instances the law covering product failures or hazards applies, even if the faulty use is directly related to the consumer. Although it may seem unfair to the business entities, it is noteworthy that manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers of the results that potential misuse could produce, even if they are considered off-label use. A good example here is the required warning that shampoo is to be used only externally, which allows manufacturers to avoid product liability in case of ingestion.

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