Proving Negligence In A Product Liability Case

In Rhode Island, there are four elements needed to prove liability in a product liability claim:

  1. That the product was defective or dangerous
  2. That the defective or dangerous product caused the injury
  3. That the particular injury is causally related to the defective or dangerous product
  4. That the manufacturer or seller owed a duty to make or sell a safe product

Theories Of Recovery

  • Strict liability — This theory allows a person injured by a defective or dangerous product to recover compensation for the injuries without showing negligence.
  • Negligence — This is present when the manufacturer or seller of the product was negligent in the manufacturing of the product, causing it to be defective or dangerous, or the seller was negligent in selling such a product.
  • Breach of warranty — This is when the manufacturer or seller violates a contractual promise regarding the quality, character or suitability of the product. These warranties that give rise to product liability because of a breach can be either expressed or implied.
  • Express warranty — These are either written statements, advertisements or demonstrations that end up not to be true or deceptive.
  • Implied warranty — An implied warranty is not explicitly stated; it is based upon the reasonable expectations of the buyer, including implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.


Defects that give rise to product liability because of personal injuries include:

  • Design defect — This is a flaw in the design of the product that makes it unreasonably dangerous.
  • Manufacturing defect — Although the product may have been designed properly, the manufacturing of the product was defective causing the product to be dangerous.
  • Marketing defects — These include insufficient instructions, failure to warn of dangers, and poor or improper labeling of the product.

There are two types of time limitations on product liability cases. The first is the Statute of Limitations. In Rhode Island there is a three-year statute of limitation regarding injuries caused by product liability. This means that the case must be resolved within three years of the injury or the matter must be placed into a lawsuit within three years of the injury that will stop the statute of limitation from running. This statute of limitation is enlarged by the "discovery rule" that states the statute of limitation begins to run when the injured party discovers or should have discovered the injury was caused by the product.

The second type of time limitation is Notice Requirement. When bringing a product liability claim for the breach of an implied warranty the buyer must, within a reasonable time after he or she discovers or should have discovered any breach, notify the seller of the breach. In Rhode Island, under certain circumstances, the filing of the lawsuit against the seller constitutes sufficient notice if filed within the three-year statute of limitation. The notice provision is inapplicable to third parties, especially if they are nonpurchasers.

Market Share

Market share is liability against the manufacturer of a defective or dangerous product even though the manufacturer of the product cannot be identified. Market share liability consists of filing a lawsuit against any manufacturers that have manufactured a particular product. Rhode Island does not recognize product liability based upon market share and these cases cannot be brought in Rhode Island.

Karns Law Group — Experienced Rhode Island Attorneys

Karns Law Group represents injured victims concerning product liability based upon defective or dangerous products. It has been fighting on behalf of personal injury victims in Rhode Island for over 40 years. To learn what our attorneys can do for you, contact the office locally at 401-239-1085, toll free at 888-KARNS-LAW or email the firm to set up a free initial appointment.