What to Know About Product Liability in Florida

What to Know About Product Liability in Florida

We all buy things that we need or want in everyday life. Whether it is food, vehicles, electronics, clothing, toys, medications, or cleaning products, we expect these items to work as intended. 

Unfortunately, products can be defective, causing serious injuries and death. When this happens, the victim may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer or other parties. 

However, winning a product liability lawsuit is not an easy task. The victim must prove that a manufacturer is liable for the injuries caused by the use of the product. Florida victims can typically use two theories to go after a manufacturer: negligence and strict liability.

When proving negligence, the victim needs to show that a manufacturer’s actions directly caused their injuries. Claims under the negligence theory arise from defects in the design, manufacturing, and labeling, as well as fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of warranty. Negligence can occur any time during the product development process. 

Some examples include:

  • Failure to adequately review product plants
  • Failure to perform adequate maintenance of the equipment used in the product manufacturing 
  • Failure to perform thorough testing before putting the product on the market

Note that there are timelines involved. Under Florida Statutes Section 95.11, you have four years to file a claim for personal injuries or property damage. In cases of wrongful death, you have just two years to file a claim. 

Florida also has a statute of repose. What this means is that if you’re dealing with a product that has an expected useful life of 10 years or less, you can’t file a lawsuit if you suffered harm after 11 years of the date on which the product was first delivered to its first purchaser.

Types of Defects

Defective products fall into one of these categories:

  • Design defects. These are present in a product from the beginning, before manufacture.
  • Manufacturing defects. These occur during the manufacturing or assembly of a product.
  • Marketing defects. These refer to flaws in how a product is marketed, which include improper labeling or inadequate safety warnings.

Common Defective Products

Many of the products we use daily can be defective. They include:

  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Medical devices
  • Cosmetics
  • Toys
  • Household appliances
  • Cleaning products
  • Motor vehicles
  • Boats
  • Pesticides
  • Industrial equipment and machinery

Elements of a Claim

Four elements must be present to file a product liability claim:

  • Defective product. The plaintiff must prove that a product had a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect. 
  • Damages. The victim must have suffered bodily injuries, property damage, lost wages, or economic losses to file a product liability claim. 
  • Cause. There must be a relationship between the defective product and the injury. The victim must show that the product’s defect directly caused the injuries and damages and that the defective product was the proximate cause of the accident.
  • Product was used properly. Products must be used for the intended purpose. You cannot alter or modify your vehicle, for example, and then hold the manufacturer liable. However, if you did use the product as intended and you were still injured, then there are liability issues.

Who Can Be Held Liable?

A victim can sue any entity in the product chain for negligence in causing the victim injury. The possible liable parties include the following:

  • Manufacturers. Depending on the complexity of the defective product, a victim can name multiple manufacturers in a product liability lawsuit. The reason is that it is typical for manufacturers to use parts manufactured by other factories. Automotive vehicles are a good example since they are made of hundreds of parts sourced from other original equipment manufacturers.
  • Retailers. A retailer can be held liable for product liability issues due to implied warranties. This is because when a retailer puts a product up for sale, they are ensuring that a product is safe for consumers. 
  • Wholesalers. Wholesalers are also responsible for ensuring that the products they sell are safe to use. It’s a good idea to name every entity in the product’s distribution chain to see who can be held liable.

Damage Awards

By filing a product liability lawsuit, you can receive compensation for damages. There are two types of damages that can be awarded in Florida courts: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages, as the name suggests, compensate plaintiffs for damages they incurred, including medical expenses, lost wages, and property damages. You can also receive compensation for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering.

For the most part, Florida courts will only award compensatory damages. However, punitive damages are also possible if the manufacturer or other defendant was especially negligent or reckless. Punitive damages are awarded to the victim and serve as a way to punish the defendant.

Contact Us Today

The products we use on an everyday basis should be safe, but sometimes defects occur. These defects can cause consumers to suffer serious injuries and even death.The team at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm, has the experience and knowledge to help you with your product liability case. There are very specific elements you must prove to file a successful claim against a manufacturer. Schedule a free consultation by filling out the online form or calling (954) 876-4344. We have offices in Weston, Coral Gables, and Daytona Beach.