People rely on products for just about everything: at their jobs, for entertainment, transportation, their health, and so much more. We expect products to work a specific way and we expect them not to hurt us. When these ordinary expectations are not met and it results in an injury, the manufacturer or vendor can be held accountable. Product liability is the legal responsibility of an entity to financially compensate for injury or death caused by defective merchandise.
There are different types of product liability claims and they all fall under a theory, or avenue by which a victim may recover losses:
- Breach of Warranty – There are expressed and implied “warranties,” or guarantees, that a product will perform a certain way or up to a certain standard. These can be in the form of product packaging, advertisements, a sales contract or a seller’s professional advice. A breach of warranty claim is filed when the product caused an injury while it was being used as directed, thus not meeting the terms of the warranty.
- Negligence – An entity has a duty to make and sell products free from dangerous defects and unknown risks. To claim negligence in a product liability case, the victim must prove that the manufacturer or seller either knew or should have reasonably known that the product was defective or dangerous.
- Strict Liability – Strict liability claims focus on the product itself. Under strict liability, an entity in the supply chain may be responsible if a product caused an injury or damage, even if there is no proof that the manufacturer or seller knew that the product was or could be dangerous.
- Manufacturing Defect – Errors can happen during the manufacturing of a product, affecting only one or a few of a specific product. Causes for a manufacturing defect can vary, but examples include a bad weld, ingredient contamination or poor quality materials.
- Design Defect – When a product design is defective and unreasonably dangerous when put to a reasonably anticipated use, regardless of how carefully it is manufactured. The plaintiff must prove there is a feasible alternative design. An example is a piece of equipment that does not have a safety guard, or an automobile with a defective seatbelt design.
- Insufficient Warnings or Instructions – All products have an element of danger and it is the responsibility of the manufacturer and designer to properly warn consumers about nonobvious risks. An example is a dangerous medication that cannot be made safer and they fail to warn of the side-effects.
Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum, P.C. has successfully represented injured people in St. Louis product liability actions against small and large corporations. These have included defective airplanes, defectively designed automobiles, defectively manufactured dump truck hoists and beds, defective medical products and devices, and more.
Notable Product Liability Cases
For an 18-year old boy who died in a fire after a motor vehicle accident as a result of a product defect in the motor vehicle in which he was a passenger.
For the wrongful death of a 75-year-old St. Louis County man who died as the result of a defective device on his pickup truck.
For a man who sustained permanent back injuries when the dump truck he was operating collapsed due to a defective hoist.
Who is responsible if I’m injured by a product?
Anyone in the chain of commerce can potentially be held liable for a defective product that causes an injury. This includes the entities responsible for designing and manufacturing the product and its parts, as well as those that make the product available to consumers, such as distributors, wholesale sellers, suppliers and retail stores. However, there are some protections for defendants, and an experienced product liability attorney can help identify the proper responsible parties.
What factors determine if I have a product liability case?
There are two essential questions that must be affirmatively answered to determine if there is a product liability case:
- Is the product unreasonably dangerous when put to a reasonably anticipated use?
- Did the defective product cause an injury or damage?
The facts for every case are different, but generally, if one of these questions is answered “no,” then there is not case.
What type of damages can I recover?
A victim of product liability can seek financial compensation for all economic losses, including medical bills, lost earnings, funeral bills and property damage, as well as general harms, such as permanent injury to the body, pain and suffering, disability, and the inability to perform tasks. In some cases, a spouse may also be able to recover some losses and punitive damages may be awarded to the victim as a punishment to the defendant.
What documents and information about my product injury should I save?
It is essential to immediately secure possession of the product that caused the injury and retain it throughout the case. The sooner an attorney is notified the better, so that the firm can begin to perform a detailed investigation and inspection of the product. A lawyer will also be able to advise on what items to save and what to discard based on the specific details of the case. Examples include:
- The Product
- Photographs of the Product and Injuries
- A list of Everyone Who Saw the Injury Occur or Knew of the Product’s Condition
- Evidence of Product Ownership; purchase orders, receipts, and/or owner’s manuals
- A List of Health Care Providers
- Medical Bills for Treatment of the Injuries
- Tax Returns, W-2 Forms and Pay Stubs
How long do products liability cases take and what are my responsibilities?
Products liability cases can take months to years before going to trial. First, a potential claim is investigated to determine if there is adequate proof of an unreasonably dangerous product. Experienced product liability attorneys, expert witnesses and investigators work together to identify liable parties, pinpoint any negligent acts and inspect the product. Although some cases settle before then; it is essential to proceed as if the matter is going to a jury trial.
Throughout the litigation process, Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum attorneys and staff form a partnership with clients. The client’s cooperation in communicating important information to the firm, such as changes in medical status, employment status and contact information, is crucial to ensuring as thorough and quick of a process as possible. Clients can also expect to provide written discovery, produce requested documents, answer questions, and give a deposition. Finally, the client will need to be present during trial and an appellate trial, if applicable.
Is there a case if I am injured while misusing a product?
It is sometimes possible to have a product liability case when someone becomes injured while he or she was not using the product as intended. One example is if the manufacturer or seller should have reasonably anticipated the specific use and did not warn of its risks.
How long do I have to file a product liability case in Missouri and Illinois?
Product liability cases have statue of limitations, or time limits in which an injured person can file a claim. In Missouri, a person typically has five years to sue for an injury caused by a defective product. In Illinois, an action must be brought within two years of the date on which the injury occurred. However, in both states there are other factors that may further affect the time limit, for example if the product caused a death, and an attorney can best determine the product liability statue of limitations in a particular case.
How much does a product liability case cost?
Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum does not charge clients for attorneys’ fees and will cover all upfront costs for experts and investigations. We work under a contingency fee agreement, which means the payment is dependent on Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum winning the case. If we win through settlement or judgment, then the client is responsible for repaying those upfront expenses and Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum obtains an agreed upon percentage of the winnings. However, if we don’t win, the client owes us nothing.