Defenses to product liability claims are employed by companies to avoid paying out damages in the event of a personal injury lawsuit. The act of filing a claim for product liability can seem daunting. After suffering an injury through no fault of their own, many victims are then faced with the stress of rapidly accumulating medical bills, painful recovery, and the prospect of taking on a larger legal team backed by deep corporate pockets. With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, you can protect your right to compensation for your injuries and address many of the common defenses against product liability so you can start rebuilding your life.
What Is Product Liability?
In the simplest terms, a product liability claim seeks to recoup the monetary and nonmonetary damages suffered as the result of being injured by a product. Defenses of product liability seek to prove that either the victim has no grounds to hold the defendant accountable for the injury or that the defendant was not responsible for the injury in the first place. The way they defend themselves depends on the specifics of your product liability claim. These types of personal injury cases are broken down into three categories.
- Strict Liability – When a product is defective and that defect leads to an injury, it is a strict liability case. Whether it’s a defective design, defective manufacturing, or defective packaging that leads to the injury, the victim’s case addresses the product itself.
- Negligence – While negligence cases may also deal with a defective design or manufacturing process, the focus is not on the product but on the actions of the company that manufactures it.
- Breach Of Warranty – Breach of warranty claims are based on the contractual responsibilities of the defendant and an injury caused by their failure to uphold them. This is based on a binding agreement between the defendant and plaintiff, entered into by both.
Common Product Liability Defense Strategies
When a company sets out to fight a product liability claim, they do so by arguing either that they should not be held responsible for the injury itself because they were not at fault or because the victim has no right to pursue damages. While every situation is different so every defense is different, there are some common defenses that your attorney will work to address when building your claim and any pursuant lawsuit for product liability.
Outside Statute Of Limitations
In Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date of occurrence to file a personal injury claim, and the timeline for a product liability claim does not deviate from this broader statute of limitations. This means that, even if the injury persists, any claim or lawsuit must be filed by that two-year mark, otherwise the defendant is not liable for damages.
Lack Of Standing
In order to sue for damages, you need to be able to show you have a right to sue. In Negligence or strict liability cases, in most cases, this can be anyone injured by the product or their survivors. For breach of warranty claims, the defense may argue that anyone not specifically party to the contract has no basis to sue for breach.
No Duty Owed
Negligence claims are based on the concept that the manufacturer had a duty to release products that were safe when used properly and that they failed in this duty, leading to a personal injury. As a defense to product liability, a company might argue they were not negligent because the complaint alleges a duty beyond what is reasonable.
Once a product is delivered to the customer, it is no longer in control of the manufacturer. Modifications made to the product by the customer could impact its use or safety. A manufacturer may argue that the modifications were so extensive that the modifications should be seen as the cause of the injury, rather than the product itself.
A manufacturer is only responsible for making a product safe for predictable use. If someone is injured using it for a purpose or in a manner not intended, the manufacturer may argue that they could not have reasonably foreseen that specific situation and cannot be held liable for the injury that resulted.
Assumption Of Risk
One defense of product liability suits is that a product was dangerous only because it is inherently a dangerous product, which a reasonable person would expect when they purchase it and have an understanding of how to avoid that danger. When you buy a kitchen knife, you should expect a sharp blade that can cause a cut. An assumption of risk defense argues that a reasonable person would know the product in question could cause an injury through normal or abnormal use.
If the defendant can’t prove they bear no fault for the injury, they may attempt to prove that they only bear partial liability under comparative negligence rules. With comparative negligence, damages can be shared among those at fault, meaning if the plaintiff is responsible for 50% of the liability, damages from the defendant are reduced by 50%. While not a full defense to product liability, it can be financially damaging to the plaintiff’s case.
Need Help Understanding and Defeating Defenses To Product Liability Claims?
One of the best decisions you can make is to get an experienced personal injury lawyer involved in your product liability case early. They’ll work to understand your case particulars and protect your rights to compensation.
Building a case to address defenses to product liability claims can be incredibly complex, but your attorney will work to gather the evidence needed to keep your claim on track and get the money you need for medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Contact Anapol Weiss to set up a free initial consultation with a Philadelphia personal injury attorney today.