Product Liability

Download PDF

Product Liability

Defective or dangerous products are the cause of thousands of injuries every year in the U.S. “Product liability law,” is that body of law that addresses who is responsible for defective or dangerous products.

Product liability refers to a manufacturer or seller being held liable for placing a defective product into the hands of a consumer. Responsibility for a product defect that causes injury lies with all sellers of the product who are in the distribution chain. In general terms, the law requires that a product meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer. When a product has an unexpected defect or danger, the product cannot be said to meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer.

There is no federal product liability law. Typically, product liability claims are based on state laws, and brought under the theories of negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty. In addition, a set of commercial statutes in each state, modeled on the Uniform Commercial Code, will contain warranty rules affecting product liability.

 

Responsible Parties

For product liability to arise, at some point the product must have been sold in the marketplace. Historically, a contractual relationship, known as “privity of contract,” had to exist between the person injured by a product and the supplier of the product in order for the injured person to recover. In most states today, however, that requirement no longer exists, and the injured person does not have to be the purchaser of the product in order to recover. Any person who foreseeably could have been injured by a defective product can recover for his or her injuries, as long as the product was sold to someone.

Liability for a product defect could rest with any party in the product’s chain of distribution, such as:

  • The product manufacturer;
  • A manufacturer of component parts;
  • A party that assembles or installs the product;
  • The wholesaler; and
  • The retail store that sold the product to the consumer.

For strict liability to apply, the sale of a product must be made in the regular course of the supplier’s business. Thus, someone who sells a product at a garage sale would typically not be liable in a product liability action.

 

Examples of Defective Products

  • Asbestos
  • Chemicals and Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceutical Products
  • Medical Products and Devices
  • Automobiles, Trucks and Motorcycles
  • Recreational Products and Devices
  • Tobacco

 

Recent Jury Verdicts in Pennsylvania

$70 Million to adolescent boy who developed female breasts after taking Risperdal, an anti-psychotic drug sold by Johnson & Johnson. A.Y. and Billie Ann Yount v. Jansen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson Company, and Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development.

$13.5 Million for injuries sustained by a woman implanted with tension free vaginal tape. Sharon Carlino and Charles Carlino v. Ethicon, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson.