New Jersey law requires any product sold to a consumer to meet his or her reasonable, ordinary expectations when making the purchase. When the product does not meet this standard and causes injury, it is considered a defective product for which the consumer might be entitled to compensation. A case for product liability does not depend upon the seriousness of the injury, so the victim may be able to recover for anything from a minor injury to something more severe.
In addition, it’s not necessary for the purchasing consumer to be the victim. Anyone who uses the product and is harmed by the defect may be entitled to legal remedies.
Product liability refers to the legal responsibilities attributed to certain entities within the chain of distribution; essentially, any party that had a part in placing the defective product into a consumer’s hand. Entities that may be found responsible for product liability include:
- The manufacturer of the component parts.
- The company that assembled the defective product.
- Parties that handled installation.
- The wholesale enterprise that distributed the item to smaller retail companies.
- The retail store owner that placed the product on the shelves.
- Any other entity that was involved in handing the item over to the consumer, depending on the product and standard operating practices in the relevant industry.
Examples of Product Liability Cases
- A consumer who purchases a car from a dealer may have a cause of action if the vehicle’s brakes malfunction and he or she experiences an accident that is a result of the defect.
- A weakness or crack in the chain of a swing set can cause injury to a child, which may give rise to a claim for product liability.
- Sunglasses that claim to protect the eyes from certain types of ultraviolet rays may be the subject of a product liability lawsuit if they fail to do so.
- A person may have a product liability case if he or she suffers head injuries because the helmet’s chin strap broke while riding a motorcycle.
- Parents of an infant or toddler injured by a defective stroller, malfunctioning car seat or other baby equipment failure may have a cause of action for product liability.
These are just a few examples of how defective consumer goods may give rise to a lawsuit. The only way to know for sure whether you have a case is to consult with an experienced product liability lawyer.
The qualified and knowledgeable attorneys at Fontanella, Benevento, Galluccio & Smith have extensive expertise in handling product liability cases and are committed to helping you pursue your legal remedies.
The Elements a Product Liability Lawyer Must Prove
There are some basic components that are the foundation of a product liability case. In order to prove the case, a product liability lawyer must show four elements for his or her client:
- Duty: There must be a duty owed to the victim by the party responsible for his or her injuries. In a product liability case, this would be some entity or party within the chain of distribution.
- Breach: The responsible party breached this duty, essentially by not ensuring that the product met the standards of the consumer’s ordinary expectations.
- Causation: The failure to make sure the product was not defective directly caused the victim’s injuries and other losses.
- Damages: The victim must also show the existence of physical, financial and/or emotional damages as a result of the breach of duty.
A product liability lawyer has the experience and legal knowledge to apply these elements to your case and help you obtain the legal remedies you deserve.
Legal Theories for Product Liability
The rationale behind a case for product liability centers on the duty owed by those parties within the chain of distribution, i.e., those entities that played a part in the item making it into the hands of the consumer.
In the eyes of the law, these responsible parties are in a better position to ascertain different types of flaws when compared to the purchaser. As such, the burden is placed upon manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and others to ensure against defects. There are three types of defects these entities have a duty to protect against, which your product liability lawyer can explain in more detail.
- Design Defects: In this category, the product is defective because of its inherent design. There wasn’t a mistake made in the manufacturing process that affected just one item, but rather a failure in the creation of the consumer good. Here, the entire line of products is affected because the flaw is at their very core. An example would be the case of a vehicle that doesn’t stay in park due to a defect in the design of the transmission.
- Manufacturing Defects: This type of defect is the result of a mistake while making or assembling the product, usually at the manufacturing factory. The error may only involve one item and the defect makes it different from any other of the same products on the shelf. For instance, a drug manufacturer might be liable for a manufacturing defect if a pill falls into a bottle it doesn’t belong in while being packaged
- Failure to Warn: Certain products carry built-in dangers that are part of the design and manufacturing process, but can cause injuries to consumers because inadequate warning is provided. Essentially, the responsible parties have the duty to provide instructions or a warning to consumers that precautions must be taken as part of the product’s proper use. In an example made famous by the media, (and often with the facts and conclusions misstated) a fast food chain was found liable for failing to warn the consumer that the coffee she purchased was piping hot.
The Role of a Product Liability Lawyer
As you can see, the concepts giving rise to a case for product liability claims are quite complex. You must be able to prove all elements of the cause of action in order to prevail against the responsible parties. Plus, many of the entities which might be liable are large companies with aggressive insurance companies and legal teams. If you don’t have a knowledgeable legal professional on your side, you risk losing your case or being forced to settle for a low amount that doesn’t fully compensate you for your losses.
This is why it’s so important to consult with the experienced product liability lawyers at Fontanella, Benevento, Galluccio & Smith to determine whether you have a case, help you prove the essential elements and recover damages.