It can be frustrating to purchase a product that does not meet expectations. Some may break down unexpectedly after a few days while others may even cause injury to the user.
Less expensive items with defects are rarely a concern for many consumers. But for more expensive ones like gadgets, jewelry, and appliances, this is when consumers go searching for potential financial or legal remedies.
When a product stops working as intended or advertised
Consumers should reach out to the seller and provide any relevant information about the product defects. At best, they can expect product replacements or refunds.
At worst, consumers may have been misled about a product. The seller may also deny the existence of any defect and refuse to rectify the issue. Should this happen, the courts can provide the proper remedy, depending on product type, its value, and acceptable business practices in a given field.
Breaches in product warranties and purchase contracts may only be the tip of the iceberg. The bigger issue here could be commercial fraud that has affected a good number of consumers over time. In this situation, these affected consumers can band together, seek the services of a class action attorney, and go to court.
When a product causes injury
Consumers can pursue a product liability lawsuit — a serious case many businesses would prefer not to be embroiled in — especially in California. Under state law, the selling, design, and manufacture of a defective product entails strict liability for injuries caused by that product.
When a person or company is slapped with strict liability, they must pay damages even though they were not necessarily negligent in the creation of the product. It’s enough to prove that the product indeed contained defects and that there is cause and effect between the defective product and the plaintiff’s injury.
Additionally, there are four factors needed for a product liability lawsuit to succeed:
- Defendant(s) sold, designed, manufactured, and distributed a product with defects.
- The defect was still present when the defendant no longer possessed the product.
- The plaintiff used the product in a reasonable way or a reasonably foreseeable manner.
- The plaintiff incurred injuries or harm due to use of defective product.
Exceptions to the strict liability rule
Note, though, that some products are considered inherently unsafe. These include some prescription drugs, medical devices, food products (e.g. sugar, alcohol, butter), and firearms. Should a product of this nature cause injury, liability usually lies with the user. However, a manufacturer can be held liable if the plaintiff can prove that the former’s product has a key design flaw that caused the injury.
Parties to be held liable
One of the first tasks in a product liability lawsuit is to examine the chain of distribution of the defective product. This chain includes the retailer, distributor, and manufacturer — all of whom have had inputs in product creation.
Depending on the details of the case, some — or possibly all — parties may be held liable. Once a plaintiff sues more than one defendant, a legal doctrine called joint and several liability will be applied.
According to California law, multiple defendants are jointly liable for economic damages (e.g., costs to repair property damage, medical bills). The total amount of economic damages must be paid even if the manufacturer is the only party who can foot the bill.
The defendants could also be severally or separately liable for non-economic damages (e.g. emotional distress, inconvenience). The court will determine the degree of responsibility of each defendant when considering this. Thus, plaintiffs can’t collect the total amount for non-economic damages from a single defendant.
When a company denies the existence of product defects
Even though a defendant presents evidence that a product functioned as expected despite injuries, the lack of an appropriate product warning makes the item “legally defective” under California law.
This typically happens to products that entail a degree of danger when used or misused (e.g. lawnmowers, prescription drugs). Even though some consumers followed a product warning, this doesn’t automatically mean that defendants adequately warned the public.
When defective warning is one of the points of contention, a jury has to decide if such warnings were sufficient.
Consult Hogue & Belong Attorneys at Law
If a product defect has caused you or someone you know injuries or damage to property, don’t hesitate to contact Hogue & Belong Attorneys at Law for sound legal advice.
You can trust in the legal services of these highly experienced class action attorneys in San Diego who have numerous successes in the pursuit of justice for consumers.