What are Your Rights if You Have Been Injured by a Defective Product?

Johnson and Johnson has been hit with some 6,000 cases claiming that their baby powder causes ovarian cancer, but last month, the company and its suppliers received a jury verdict penalizing them $21.7 million after a woman claimed exposure to asbestos mixed with the powder caused her to develop mesothelioma, a cancer linked to exposure to asbestos.

J&J has denied that their products contain asbestos, but the plaintiffs in the cases claim that talc and asbestos are closely related minerals and are intermingled during the mining process, making it impossible to separate the substances.

What is a Product Liability Case?

We use a number of products throughout the day every single day, and although we do not always know exactly where the products come from or how they are made, we trust that they are safe to use. However, in some cases, the products turn out to be faulty and result in harm to an individual, or in severe cases, even death. Florida product liability laws say that you are entitled to compensation for the injuries and damages that you receive when you are injured as a result of the product defects. These lawsuits hold manufacturers accountable for their products.

Types of Product Liability Claims

Product liability claims can result from a variety of situations, but most of them are due to three common types of defects, including the following:

Design Defects

This type of claim is based on the defective design of products. These claims seek to prove that the manufacturer’s intended use for a product turned out to be faulty, making an unreasonably dangerous product. In Florida, the consumer expectation test determines if a product is considered unreasonably dangerous. If a product does not perform as safely a consumers expect, it will likely be deemed dangerous.

This type of defect is based on the design alone, rather than errors made during the manufacturing process. When the risk of danger outweighs the benefits of the product during normal, expected use, it is often due to a design defect. In some cases, the actual user of the product is not the only party who can recover damages, but instead, a bystander who was also damaged from being near the product when it malfunctioned can also file a claim.

Manufacturing Defects

This is the most common product liability claim. This type of lawsuit is based on manufacturing defects that allegedly made a safely designed product become unsafe due to an error that occurred during manufacturing. If a product’s design was inherently safe, but the product left the manufacturing facility and was not in line with the original design, then the manufacturer can be held liable for injuries the product caused when it was being used for its intended purpose.

For example, if a set of tires is designed to resist punctures, support the weight of a specific vehicle, and resist wear and tear, the tires should be safe to use by design. However, if the manufacturer fails to assemble the tires correctly, the result could be a faulty product that puts people at risk for tire blowouts and serious accidents.

Marketing Defects

In the case of a marketing defect, the design and manufacturing of the product are not the focus of the problem. Instead, these cases involve claims that the distributor of the product failed to include adequate warnings about the product. These claims are also known as warning and/or labeling defects.

These claims try to prove that there were predictable risks for using the product that could have been minimized if the person using the product has received reasonable warnings or instructions. This type of claim is common with prescription medications, for example. While manufacturers are not required to list every possible risk associated with their product, they are required to list those that are prevalent and known.

Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims

The State of Florida statutes surrounding product liability cases say that the statute of limitations is four years for a property damage or personal injury case. In the case of a wrongful death suit, the statute of limitations decreases to two years from the date of the death of the victim. If you fail to meet this time limitation, in most cases, you will not be allowed to file the lawsuit again for the same case.

Elements of Negligence

Florida courts will usually take into account several things when determining if a product liability claim is viable. In order to prove that the defendant in the case should be held responsible for the defective product, you will have to prove that the product had a defect that resulted in a dangerous situation, whether it was due to marketing, manufacturing, or design. The following elements are part of proving negligence in a product liability claim:

  • Accountable Loss: You must prove that you suffered financial loss and/or an injury that resulted from the direct use of the manufacturer’s product.
  • Failure to Warn: You will need to show that the product was either defectively designed, defectively manufactured, or lacked an adequate warning to product the consumer of the dangers of the product.
  • Proximate Cause: The plaintiff will have to show that the injuries were a direct result of the defects of the product.
  • Products Were Used as Intended: The plaintiff will need to prove that they were using the product per the manufacturer’s instructions and for the intended use.

Consult with an Experienced Product Liability Attorney

Product liability laws in Florida state that even if you were partially at fault for an accident, you may still be entitled to file a product liability claim based on the rule of comparative negligence. This could reduce your compensation, but may still allow you to be eligible to receive a settlement on your case. Product liability laws are complex, and if you have sustained injuries as a result of a defective product, you should never have to pay the price out of your own pocket. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi have years of experience handling product liability claims. Contact them today for a consultation and see what rights you have when it comes to your situation.