Defective Product Injury
The modern industrial world surrounds us with products. From our cars to home appliances, sporting goods, medical appliances, tools, industrial machines, the list is almost endless. Because of the importance of products to daily life, the law imposes special duties on manufacturers and distributors of products. This field of law is called “products liability.”
Products liability law imposes “strict” liability on manufacturers. This means that a manufacturer is liable for a “defect” in a product regardless of whether the manufacturer knew (or should have known) about the defect. (A manufacturer who knowingly sells a product with a defect is of course liable as well -- and the liability may include punitive damages.)
The term “defect” is a legal term of art. It can mean any of several faults, either in design or manufacture. In general, a defect is something that prevents the product from performing as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect. For example. a surfboard that buckled on a wave and crashed its rider to the ocean bottom was “defective” in design because it lacked sufficient strength and rigidity to withstand foreseeable loads. A tool used to check pressures in an aircraft engine was defective because its bolts were too small to resist the pressure, permitting the tool to explode. A medical device that was designed to restrain the head of a patient undergoing brain surgery was defective because a machining error left too little metal to resist the weight of the patient’s head.
Another type of defect is an inadequate or missing warnings or directions. A manufacturer has a duty to provide a warning on all products that can cause harm. The warning should fairly apprise the user of the potential for harm and state how to avoid the harm. It is not necessary that the harm be certain to occur; it is enough that a potential harm exist that a consumer would like to become informed about.
Need for investigation
Whenever a product is involved in an injury, a thorough investigation is necessary to determine if the product might have been at fault. This is true whether or not the product is "broken," because improper design is also considered a legal defect. The law provides that a manufacturer of a product is liable for injuries resulting from "defects" in the product. A "defect" may include:
- A manufacturing defect or error
- A bad design that causes harm
- A lack of warning or directions
The firm is highly experienced in the litigation of defective products. The firm is able to investigate the product using consulting engineers and firm members trained in engineering and scientific disciplines, evaluate the injury with in-house and consulting medical staff, review the legal merits of the claim and prosecute the action in the appropriate courts, for settlement or trial.
Eye injury from defective water balloon launcher
Water balloons and other toys can be enjoyable, but hidden dangers sometimes spell tragedy. Our client, a young boy, was using a water balloon launcher at a summer camp. The rubber bands of the launcher were made of a type of rubber not acceptable for this application. The rubber bands snapped when stretched, and struck the boy’s eye, permanently blinding him. The firm investigated the incident and determined that the rubber used in the device was of an improper chemical composition. A settlement was negotiated with the manufacturer, and with the camp owner, who had failed to supervise the operation and had failed to provide safety glasses.
Failure of heart pacemaker
We never know how far a case might need to go to get results. One important case became a "texbook" case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Our client had trouble with her heart pacemaker. Instead of working for years as it was designed, repeated, painful surgeries were needed to restore its "capturing" her heartbeat. The manufacturer blamed the surgeons, and in addition said that the FDA had approved the device, so no lawsuit could be brought. This attempted defense, called "preemption" became the important issue to the Supreme Court, who ruled in our favor. Our case was settled favorably, and now, after our case, consumers are not barred from challenging faulty medical products just because the FDA has approved them.