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Product Liability Cases: Don't Call Ghostbusters If Your Appliance Really Is Possessed

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 !