Do you remember the scene in the original Ghostbusters movie where Dana's
refrigerator was possessed by Zuul ? Well, occasionally you may feel like
an appliance in your home is possessed by Zuul when it malfunctions and
injures you or one of your family members. What can you do if this happens
to you ? What do lawyers inquire about when deciding if a products liability
case is appropriate to file ? What do the Courts in New York look at to
determine if there a product is defective ? This blog post is going to
discuss these issues and the legal standards associated with them.
What is a product liability case ? A person who is injured by a product
may file a claim against a manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer,
processor of materials or a maker of a component part if person was injured
while using the product for its intended purpose. What we, as an injured
person's attorney must show to a jury, is that the product was defective
and the defect caused your injuries.
What does defective mean ? Your attorney has to show that the product is
so dangerous that if a person knew of the potential for producing injury,
a person would conclude that the product should not have been marketed
in the dangerous condition. A jury can conclude that a product is defective
if there is a manufacturing defect, inadequate warnings or a defective
design. A product is defectively designed if a reasonable person knew
or should have known of the products potential for causing injury and
of a feasible alternative design would have concluded that the product
should not have been markted in that condition.
I am sure everyone has seen the warnings in their car about air bags deploying
and causing injuries or death. Well, the reason for these warnings is
that one theory of product liability is that a manufacturer who can reasonabnly
foresee that a person can be injured through the use of their product
is obligated to provide adequate warnings of the dangers associated with
the use of the product. If you make this claim, you need to show that
the inadequate warning or lack of a warning was the reason that you were
injured by the product. Can you see the warnings in the front seat of
your car now and see how this claim would play out before a jury ? You
would have to actually show that the warning in the front seat would have
affected your behavior and caused you to do something that would have
avoided the injury caused by the airbag deploying. The example that comes
to my mind is if your son or daughter is injured when an air bag deploys
and, had you know the air bag could have injured your child, you would
have had your son or daughter sit in teh back seat.
Some clients should also keep in mind that they can use circumstantial
evidence to establish a product was defective. What does this mean ? Circumstancial
evidence can be facts surrounding an accident that can be used to show
that there was something wrong with the product when the specific product
at issue is not available for inspection. The example that comes to mind
here is a vehicle that was destroyed in an accident where the brakes malfunctioned.
If the product you have been injured by was destroyed, you still have
the ability to recover so at least talk to a qualified attorney even if
the product was destroyed.
Design defects are also a theory a plaintiff can use in a product liability
case. In New York, a manufacturer has a duty to design a product so that
it avoids an unreasonable risk of harm to anyone who is likely to be exposed
to danger if the consumer uses the product as intended. Manufacturers
must also anticipate other reasonable uses of a product that are unintended
and ensure that the product is reasonably safe for these unintended uses
as well. Feasible design alternatives can be used to show a design defect,
but the plaintiff also has to show that the design alternative would have
prevented the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. Post manufacture modifications
can be used to show feasible alternative designs. Normally, changes and
improvements to a product after an accident cannot be used to show that
a product was defective, but the feasible design alternative is an exception.
What does all of this say to the public. Product liability cases are not
simple. There is a significant amount of technical evidence that must
be considered and used by your attorney to acquire the compensation that
you need to make you whole after you have been injured. Engineers are
a central piece of this type of claim. Recalls are also an important part
of this type of claim. These types of cases are not for your routine mom
and pop law firm. You need experienced, hard nosed litigators that have
the ability to investigate these issues, understand them and use them
to your advantage.
As I always say, I hope no one becomes a plaintiff, but if you do, you
will want to give us a call. Our consultations and case evaluations are
always free and we will meet you on evenings and weekends if you require.
Give us a call and put us to work. Our attorneys at Michael R. Varble
& Associates, P.C. are experienced with difficult litigation and we
always fight for you !