A product liability case arises when a product turns out to be defective and causes an injury to the user. Defective products that cause injury include defective drugs, defective machinery, a malfunctioning car part, and defective medical devices among others. Product liability attorneys need to prove to the court that a particular product is defective in its design, manufacturing, or that the manufacturer failed to warn users regarding the risks involved. People injured by a defective product can file a product liability action to safeguard their rights and obtain compensation. To prove the injury caused by the defective product, medical records of the plaintiff need to be reviewed and lawyers prefer to use medical records services for the same because it speeds up the medical record collection and review process. Any product liability case comes with its own set of challenges.
Before going on to the general challenges involved in a product liability lawsuit, let us look at the product liability threat posed by the current COVID-19 epidemic, especially when businesses are trying to function in the “new normal.” A recent natlawreview.com article by Joseph M. Price, Blake A. Angelino, and Bryan D. Pasciak highlights a range of product liability claims that could be brought in by plaintiff attorneys. These lawsuits could be brought against manufacturers, product sellers and distributors, and other entities involved in selling or distributing the product. Typically, these lawsuits may be filed by individuals or organizations; also, there could be a mass tort or class action lawsuit filed by healthcare workers, consumers, employees and so on.
You could see an increase in product claims related to the following.
- Failing to warn regarding the presence of COVID-19 in a manufacturing/distribution facility
- Failing to warn about possible side effects of drugs or devices
- Products that claim to protect against the coronavirus
- Protective gear, disinfectants and sanitizers that misrepresent the protection against viruses, bacteria, and germs
- Vaccines/drugs claiming to treat COVID-19 or minimize its impact
- Foods and dietary supplements that claim to cure, treat or lessen COVID-19 and its symptoms
- COVID-19 diagnostic tests
- Immune system boosting products
- COVID-19 exposure from contaminated packaging or devices
Apart from the above, there is also the risk of facing actions from government agencies such as the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that have issued warning letters to companies selling fraudulent COVID-19 products.
Product liability lawsuits filed could be based on allegations such as
- The product was defectively designed, manufactured or assembled
- The labeling on the product was insufficient, or instructions were improper, or warnings were inadequate
- The product’s characteristics or abilities were misrepresented
- The defendant acted with negligence by breaching a duty to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached an express warranty
- The defendant is strictly liable for a defect that made a product unreasonably dangerous
To win a product liability case, the plaintiff side has to overcome a few challenges.
- Proving that the product is defective: This involves proving that there was a fault in the design or manufacturing of the product. Also, one may need to show that the product came without adequate warning or labels to prevent the accident that caused the injury.
- Establishing losses: A plaintiff cannot file and win a product liability case just by being hurt or having a close call. To be eligible for damages, you need to show injury or economic losses.
- Prove that the product was used as intended: The manufacturer could claim that the plaintiff did not use the product as it was meant to be used.
- Having and retaining valuable evidence: Sometimes it may be challenging to retain evidence necessary to prove the case. To investigate the defect, having the defective product itself could be critical. Often, products may be destroyed during the accident, and this could make it more difficult to prove the case. On the other hand, if the plaintiff has the product in his/her possession, it becomes easier to meet the burden of proof in court.
- Finding the seller or supplier: In certain product liability cases, the seller could be held liable for damages. However, identifying the seller could be challenging if the sale was not documented or happened many years ago.
- Collecting punitive damages: There may be restrictions under state law that could make it difficult to prove punitive damages. In this case, the plaintiff has to prove that the manufacturer acted with actual malice toward him/her, or displayed a conscious disregard for the health, safety and wealth of others.
- Statute of limitations: Each state may have its own period within which a product liability injury or death lawsuit has to be filed. This has to be followed strictly. It could be challenging in cases such as when the plaintiff was exposed to a harmful substance and came to know of the injury only much later.
- Limits on damages: State law may limit damages in some product liability cases under the particular state’s pure contributory negligence standard. The plaintiff could be held partially responsible for the injury suffered – by not following the instructions on a machine at work, texting while driving and the brakes failed, and so on. In such cases, it will be difficult to recover compensation.
Sometimes, plaintiffs may file a No-injury lawsuit. This is a lawsuit related to defective products and product recalls that do not involve physical injury. In these cases, plaintiffs may claim economic losses related to reduced value of the product. However, different courts may treat these cases differently based on the specific jurisdiction.
A product liability attorney would strive to prove on the plaintiff’s behalf that there was negligence, breach of warranty and strict liability. It is to be established that the product reached the user without alteration and that the injury the plaintiff suffered was strictly due to the product’s intrinsic defect. Any product liability case would involve medical record retrieval and review, which is best done as early as possible so that there is no delay involved.
Product liability law holds manufacturers, sellers and distributors responsible for those products that present a danger or risk to consumers/users because of design and/or manufacturing defects. However, as a provider of medical records services for product liability attorneys we understand how challenging proving liability is and how important experience in handling such cases is important to prove that the product that injured the client was defectively designed or defectively manufactured.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog has been sourced from reliable internet resources and is intended as informative material only. For a professional opinion in this regard, consult a product liability attorney.