Product Liability – Theories Of Liability

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Product liability is when a manufacturer, or seller, becomes liable for placing a defective product into the hands of the consumer, causing injuries. There are three theories of liability regarding product liability including strict liability, breach of warranty and negligence. Also, the responsibility and liability for a defective product that causes injury is not only with the manufacturer, but with all the sellers in the distribution chain including not only who made the product but who sold the product, distributed the product or put the product into the hands of the consumer.

As stated, the theories of liability in a product liability case are as follows:

  • Strict liability: This theory makes the manufacturer and everyone in the chain of distribution liable if the injury was caused by a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition, if the condition existed when the product left the defendant's hands, and the defective product caused injuries.
  • Breach of Warranty: This theory of liability is based on contract law and exists for the breach of an implied warranty and/or breach of an express warranty. This theory exists if the product is defective and not fit for the purpose the product was purchased for, causing injuries.
  • Negligence: This theory involves whether or not a manufacturer, distributor or seller exercised ordinary care in the design, production and/or distribution of a product that subsequently causes injury. If the product was negligently manufactured — making the product defective — and it caused injuries, that is an example of negligence.

There are many parties that can be liable in a product liability case including the manufacturer, distributer and the seller. An example of this would be if the product was negligently manufactured resulting in a defective product that causes injuries, then the manufacturer is liable, the company that distributed the product is liable and the store that sold the product is liable. It is possible for a product defect that causes injury for fault to lie with all parties in the manufacturing and distributing chain.

In addition, product liability goes well beyond a consumer purchasing a product who is injured. Anyone injured by the product, whether they purchased it or not, has a claim for product liability. If someone at work is injured by a product they are using that was purchased by their employer, then that worker has a claim for product liability even though the worker did not purchase the product. This holds true in a multitude of situations including another example: If someone is at a friend's house and is injured by a defective product, the injured person has a claim for product liability even though it was the friend who purchased the product. Basically, anyone injured by a product has a claim for product liability if they were injured by the product during the use of the product, even if they did not purchase the product.