One often sees headlines regarding individuals who sustained injury due to allegedly defective products. In recent years, hover boards have caught on fire, and cell phones, too, due to faulty lithium-ion batteries. Of course, everyone remembers the case of the woman who sued McDonald’s, after McDonald’s overly-heated coffee caused 3rd degree burns to her legs and groin.
More Product Liability
Most people have now heard of Mesothelioma, a cancer caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Owens Corning was ordered to pay over $1 billion in damages to 176,000 sufferers who had been exposed to asbestos in the company’s buildings. Phillip Morris was ordered to pay billions to consumers for committing consumer fraud in advertising “light” cigarettes, after a judge ruled that the tobacco giant deceived smokers into believing that its light cigarettes were less harmful than “regular” labels.
Despite a company’s best efforts, products can be defectively made, or fail. Product liability laws, which govern damages due to purportedly defective products, vary widely from state to state. In Pennsylvania, as in other states, standards are in place to assist consumers in obtaining compensation, should they be injured due to a defective product.
The different types of product liability cases may be broadly characterized as follows:
- Design defect;
- Manufacturing defect;
- Unclear or inadequate instructions and warnings.
We will discuss each category below.
These types of cases are, generally, governed by 2 standards:
- The Consumers Expectation Standard- This standard implies that the “reasonable consumer” would expect certain types of products to be inherently dangerous, which will reduce or eliminate liability. For example, a consumer would expect the blade of a knife to be sharp, but would not expect the handle to be sharp.
- The Risk-Utility Standard – This standard indicates that a manufacturer is liable for injury to a consumer where the risk of danger created by the product’s design is outweighed by the benefits of the design.
When there is a flaw created during the manufacturing of a product itself which later causes injury, these flaws provide for “strict liability.” Therefore, even if the manufacturer did not intend for the product to cause harm, or was unaware of the flaw, the manufacturer of the product, as well as all parties in the products’ chain of distribution, may be held liable.
Unclear or Inadequate Warnings and Instructions
Despite stellar product design and manufacturing, some products are inherently dangerous. In these type of products, such as chain saws, it is the manufacturer’s duty to provide easily understandable warnings of dangers associated with the product, and clear instructions on how to use the product safely and properly.
Time Limitations on Filing Suit in Product Liability Cases
As with most statutes of limitations, the injured party has 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If a lawsuit isn’t filed within the 2-year time period, the person forfeits the right to present a claim (there are limited exceptions).
Assigning Fault to the Injured Party
Pennsylvania utilizes the modified comparative fault standard, which indicates that the damaged party cannot recover compensation if he or she is 51% or more at fault for the accident. Damages may be recovered if the injured person is 50 percent or less at fault; however, the recovery will be reduced by the degree of fault.
For more information about consumer protection, and a listing of Pennsylvania’s state and local consumer agencies visit USA.gov.
With more than 100 years of combined legal practice experience, the lawyers of Noel & Bonebrake will fight for the compensation that you deserve. Whether your injury is the result of a motorcycle or auto accident, a slip and fall, a dog bite, a faulty product, or other accident, we will fight for your rights. Contact the law offices of Noel & Bonebrake today!