When you purchase any product for yourself, family, or home you expect it to work and work safely when used as intended. California law holds anyone legally liable that designs, manufactures, or sells a defective product. Known as “strict liability,” a victim is allowed to collect compensation for injuries caused by a product defect even if there was no negligence. At the El Dabe Ritter Law Firm, our product liability attorneys in Los Angeles have helped a number of clients navigate the legal intricacies of a product liability lawsuit and can help you collect for any harm caused by a defective or dangerous product.
California Types of Strict Liability
Product liability differs from all other types of personal injury cases because there is no need to prove negligence or recklessness on the part of the designer, manufacturer, or seller of the defective product. Under California law, a person who suffers an injury because of a defective or dangerous product can collect damages for three types of product defects under the claim of strict liability: manufacturing defects, design defects, and warning defects.
Manufacturing defects refer to an issue that causes a product to differ from the manufacturer’s intended result or from other identical products in the same product line. One example of a manufacturing defect from recent news is when a company’s airbag deployed during car accidents in a defective manner that ejected shrapnel at the diver and passengers of the vehicle.
Design defects refer to situations when a product fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner or when the benefits of the design do not outweigh the risk of danger inherent in the design. Examples of design defects include a table with unequal leg lengths of a child’s toy that is a choking hazard.
Warning defects refer to inadequate warnings or instructions on a dangerous product. One example of an inadequate warning would be failing to warn consumers that a string of lights is prone to overheating, causing a potential fire risk. Another example of a warning defect is a lack of instructions on how to properly light fireworks, causing injury to the person trying to use them. An experienced product liability attorney can advise you as to which type of strict liability your product liability case falls under and the best way to move forward with your case.
Elements of a Product Liability Case
In order to prove strict liability in a California product liability case, the victim must show the following elements exist in their case:
- The defendant designed, manufactured, distributed, or sold the defective product
- The product had a defect when it left the defendant’s possession
- The victim used the product in a reasonably foreseeable manner
- The victim suffered harm as a result of the product defect
Designers, manufacturers, and retailers of a product are expected to anticipate how consumers will use their product, even if in a way not originally intended. If a judge or jury finds that a consumer might use or misuse the product in the way they did when they were injured, it is considered reasonably foreseeable.
Common Defenses to Product Liability Claims
Although product liability cases fall under strict liability, the designers, manufacturers, and retailers of allegedly defective products can present certain defenses to overcome the claim of strict liability. In California, these defenses typically include, but are not limited to, the following claims:
- The defendant was not who designed, manufactured, or sold the defective product
- The product was not defective
- The product was not defective when it left the defendant’s possession
- The product was altered or repaired negligently, leading to the defective nature of the product
- The product was used in a manner that was not reasonably foreseeable
- The victim did not suffer any injuries
- The defective product did not cause the victim’s injuries
- The victim’s own negligence caused the injuries
The last defense does not necessarily overcome the claim of strict liability, but under California rules of comparative fault, claiming this defense can significantly reduce the compensation owed to the victim in a product liability case.
Compensation for a Product Liability Case
California law requires that a lawsuit for personal injuries suffered in a product liability case must be filed within two years of the date of the injury, known as the statute of limitations, or three years for any property damage caused by the defective product. If the victim of a product liability case files within the statute of limitations and proves the elements of strict liability, they are entitled to compensation for their claims.
Compensation in a product liability case includes economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include current and future medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, loss of future earning capacity, and property damage. Non-economic damages include payment for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and disability and disfigurement. In cases where a defective product caused the death of a loved one, the family may also file a lawsuit for wrongful death. This includes compensation for funeral costs, loss of love, security, companionship, and consortium.
It is important to note that California operates under a pure comparative fault standard for product liability cases. Under the doctrine of pure comparative fault, the court determines the degree of fault for every party involved in the lawsuit and reduces the overall compensation award by that degree of fault. For example, if the damages for a product liability lawsuit totaled $100,000 and the victim was found ten percent at fault, the total award to the victim would be $90,000. However, under the pure comparative fault rule, this means that even a party found 99% at fault can still collect one percent of their overall damages in a product liability case.
Contact a Product Liability Attorney
If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective product, our experienced Los Angeles product liability attorneys are here to help. Call the office or contact us today at the El Dabe Ritter Law Firm to schedule a free consultation of your defective product claims.