Has a person’s or company’s product caused injury or damage? Then you may have legal recourse to sue for damages and get compensation for what you lost. To build a successful case for product liability, though, you need to focus on a different approach than you might for other injury cases. Why? Product liability is often in a special category of law called strict liability.
What is strict liability? And how can you best prove your case?
What Is Strict Liability?
Generally, if you sue for a personal injury, you must show that the other party was somehow negligent, reckless, or intentional in their harm. If you fall on the ice at a dentist’s office, you can often demonstrate that the practice or landowner failed to clear the ice — that their actions were negligent or reckless.
Strict liability, though, doesn’t require that a plaintiff prove these motivations during their case. If you used a baby stroller that tipped over during normal use, you don’t have to prove that the stroller’s manufacturer intended to harm you or that their manufacturing process for this particular stroller was negligent.
So, what is the real focus of strict liability? Instead of someone being at fault in a particular situation, which is out of the norm, the fault in inherent in the product and therefore its maker. Strict liability indicates that the item was inherently dangerous or hazardous when it was sent into the world. That baby stroller line, for instance, was eventually going to cause injury or damage through no fault of the users.
How Can You Build a Case?
Because of the different requirements for product liability, you must first determine what type of liability to pursue. Three basic categories exist: manufacturing defects, design defects, and failure to warn defects.
What is the difference among these three types? Return to the baby stroller example. A misplaced center of gravity would be a design defect. Inferior screws would be a manufacturing defect. And the lack of a warning label not to take the stroller on uneven ground could be a failure to warn defect.
Thus, your first step is to figure out what exactly caused the problem. This is where a lawyer is particularly useful. As a consumer, you probably don’t have the experience or resources to understand and prove what exact type of defect caused the injury.
Attorneys have experience determining the root causes of defects. They can help locate professionals for expert opinions, request the right documents — both public and private — to find the defect, and understand what warnings should have been included.
Once you’ve established which type of defect to pursue, the next step is to show that the defect directly caused injury or damage. If the baby stroller tipped over due to inferior screws, you may have cellphone photos showing the broken screws. Witnesses probably saw the incident. And your lawyer can help you find medical reports and doctors’ testimony to indicate how you or the child was injured.
Finally — and perhaps most easily — show that you used the product as intended. If you jogged with a stroller not marketed for jogging purposes, you may not have used it as intended. However, if you simply strolled in the grass, that would likely be normal use. The damaged stroller itself would demonstrate that you hadn’t substantially altered the product after purchasing it.
Certainly, as with any lawsuit, the stronger you can build each of these elements, the better chance you have to win. For this reason, seek out a qualified attorney as soon as you suspect product liability issues. At St Martin & Bourque Attorneys at Law, our experienced legal staff can help. Call today to make an appointment.