Every year in the United States, 34 million people are injured or die from accidents involving defective products. Thankfully, as a consumer in California, you are protected against defective products under product liability law.
Product liability is the area of law in which manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others who make products available to the public are held responsible for the injuries those products cause. Yes, each of these have a responsibility to ensure that their products, when used as intended, will do no harm. When a company fails in this responsibility, resulting in an injury or fatality, the injured person or surviving family members may claim compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
Pursuing a product liability action with the assistance of experienced and trusted personal injury attorneys, like those at John M. O'Brien & Associates, can greatly aid in the success of such claims.
Types of Product Defects
Product defects typically fall into three categories:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing or assembly defects
- Marketing or "failure to warn" defects
Strict Liability for Defective Products
"Strict liability" is a legal rule that governs most defective product actions. It's a part of product liability law that puts responsibility on the company behind the product even if the company shows proof that they attempted to prevent a defect from happening. What does this mean for the injured victim? This means that if you have suffered damages from using a particular product, you do not have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent - only that you were injured while using the product for its stated purpose.
It is important to provide the evidence that proves the product (that caused the injury or fatality):
- was unaltered from its original condition,
- it contained a defect,
- that the defect was the immediate cause of the injury or death, and
- that the victim and/or surviving family members suffered damages as a result.
Although it may seem simple, just because an injured person is required to prove less in a strict product liability action, it does not mean a defendant's liability is automatic. Product liability actions can quickly become more complex and complicated.
At times, product liability actions are based on other legal theories. These may include any of the following:
- breach of express warranties (violation of a written warranty), and
- breach of implied warranties (where the product does not comply with minimum expected standards)
Speaking with our personal injury lawyer based in Sacramento & Elk Grove will help you understand the differences in these theories.
Product Liability Claims Involving Motor Vehicles
Although the majority of car accidents can be attributed to driver error, they can also be caused by a defect in the vehicle or of one of its parts. In some cases, an error occurs in the manufacturing process; in others, a vehicle, though correctly manufactured according to specifications, is so poorly designed it presents a hazard to drivers and passengers. Manufacturers will usually issue a recall after receiving repeated complaints about a particular problem, but the recall may be too late for those who have already been injured or killed because of the defect in the vehicle.
Some of the safety-related defects that have affected automobiles in recent years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, include:
- Faulty ignition switches (a common defect on GM models).
- Steering system defects, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle (Hyundai recently recalled 200,000 cars for steering defects in early 2015).
- Accelerator defects (especially in Toyotas manufactured between 2005 and 2010).
- Wheels that break or crack, causing the driver to lose control.
- Malfunctioning windshield wipers.
- Seat defects including seat backs that break.
- Wiring system defects causing fire or malfunctioning lights.
- Car ramps or jacks prone to collapsing and injuring a repair technician working on a vehicle.
- Air bags that deploy when they shouldn't, or that fail to employ in a crash.
At the law firm of John M. O'Brien, our Sacramento & Elk Grove-based product liability lawyers will conduct a thorough investigation to determine who could have been responsible, in full or in part, for the malfunction that caused the accident, possibly the auto manufacturer, parts manufacturer, dealership, automotive equipment store, or shipper.
Defective Children's Products
Children's products cause many accidental injuries, and some deaths. In 2013, 74,900 children under the age of five were treated in the nation's hospital emergency rooms for product-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The following are some of the children's products that may be unsafe, resulting in harm to young children:
- Defective strollers
- Car seats and child restraints
- Children's clothing made from flammable fabric
- Children's bicycles, skates, or skateboards
- Unsafe toys with small parts that could cause choking or sharp edges
- Long cords strings, or ropes that could cause strangulation
- Baby baths
- Baby gates
- Bassinets, or cribs, or other baby or toddler beds
- Tainted food
Defective Medical Devices
In modern medicine, relief for various conditions may be achieved by high-tech medical devices, some of which are implanted into the body. While these devices can and often do provide a solution to various health problems, they may also have the opposite effect; resulting in unnecessary pain, suffering, dysfunction, and even death when manufacturers, in the rush to increase their profits, place devices on the market without taking adequate steps to ensure their safety. Sometimes manufacturers falsify clinical studies and present incorrect information to the Food and Drug Administration when applying for approval for their product. In other cases, sales representatives have pushed doctors into using a device for a condition other than that for which it was intended (off-label use), resulting in harm to patients.
If you or a family member has been injured by a dangerous medical device, you may file a claim to recover monetary compensation for your damages. Unlike other product liability cases, strict liability does not apply to medical devices, so your lawyer will need to prove negligence. Make sure that the attorney you select has significant experience in these difficult and complex claims. The responsible party may be the manufacturer or supplier of the device or the surgeon who implanted it.
These are some medical devices for which injured patients have been able to recover substantial recoveries in recent years:
- Metal-on-metal hip replacements (Stryker, Dupuy, Smith & Nephew, Zimmer)
- Medtronic Infuse bone graft
- Calaxo bone screw
- Cypher stent
- Mirena and Essure contraceptive implants
- Transvaginal mesh implants (Johnson & Johnson/Ethicon, Boston Scientific, Bard, American Medical Systems, and others)
- Power Morcellator (Johnson & Johnson/Ethicon), used for the laparoscopic removal of fibroid tumors, which can cause the spread of an undetected uterine cancer, and death
Pharmaceutical drugs are big business, and as with medical devices, manufacturers are often in a hurry to market their products before possible side effects are known, to downplay or hide known side effects when applying for FDA approval, and to encourage doctors to prescribe their drugs off-label. This is a partial list of drugs that have been found dangerous (associated risk is in parentheses), enabling victims to recover damages through a legal action:
- Actos (bladder cancer)
- Onglyza (heart failure and multifactorial increase in death rate)
- Levaquin, Avelox, fluoroquinolone antibiotics (peripheral neuropathy)
- Benicar (sprue-like enteropathy)
- Crestor (Type 2 diabetes, heart attacks)
- Apixaban, Eliquis (serious or fatal bleeding)
- GranuFlo and NaturaLyte (sudden cardiac arrest during or after dialysis)
- Invega, Risperdal (breast development and/or hyperprolactinemia in boys)
- Januvia (pancreatic cancer)
- Lipitor (Type 2 diabetes)
- Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, and all SSRI antidepressants (suicidal tendencies in young people)
- AndroGel Testosterone Therapy (heart attack, stroke, death)
- Tylenol (liver failure)
- Victoza (pancreatic cancer)
- Xarelto (internal bleeding)
- Zofran, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Celexa, Effexor, Topamax, Depakote (birth defects when taken during pregnancy)
Potential Damages You May Be Able to Recover in a Product Liability Action
You may be entitled to recover three types of damages: economic, intangible, and punitive.
- Economic damages, which are medical bills, lost earnings, and other expenses that can be documented by producing bills, receipts, and employment records;
- Intangible damages, which are non-economic damages related to your quality of life. These include pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, loss of independence, emotional anguish, and others which cannot be quantified in dollars and cents;
- Punitive damages, which are those designed to punish the company that produced the product when the defect was the result of egregious wrongdoing or blatant disregard for the life, health, or wellbeing of the consumer.
An experienced Sacramento product liability attorney will gather evidence to support your claim, including records to document your economic damages, and will bring in experts when necessary to document your non-economic damages. When appropriate, your lawyer will make a case for an additional award of punitive damages as a deterrent against future occurrences.
Free Product Liability Case Consultation
To learn whether you have a valid claim for damages after being injured by a defective product in California, call the Sacramento area law firm of personal injury attorney John M. O'Brien. With 25 years of experience in successfully obtaining justice for the injured, a practice dedicated exclusively to personal injury law, and the highest possible ratings from Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo, we provide our clients with a level of excellence that is hard to beat. We are a client-focused law firm where your needs come first. The initial consultation is free and without obligation. We take product liability cases on contingency, so you don't pay us anything - ever - unless we win money for you. Legal time restrictions limit the time in which you can file your claim. Call today to protect your right to a recovery before legal deadlines expire.
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