Attorneys Helping Consumers Of Bad Products Sue For Their Injuries
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Below are some questions our lawyers frequently receive about product liability lawsuits
- What is Product Liability in Massachusetts?
- What Does A Product Liability Law Firm Do?
- What Are The Different Types of Product Defects?
- Product Liability Settlements & Verdicts in MA
- How Can A Product Liability Attorney Prove Liability When Suing A Company For Negligence?
What is Product Liability?
The term “product liability” refers to the liability of manufacturers, designers and/or sellers of products for injuries or death resulting from the use of their products. Products that have been the focus of such claims include motor vehicles, manufacturing equipment, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, toys, construction equipment, sports equipment, recreational and playground equipment, along with hundreds of other kinds of consumer and commercial products. In recent years, notable product recalls have included Toyota cars, peanut butter, products that cause hair damage, and many children’s toys.
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People can sustain serious injuries from defective products that can greatly affect their lives. If you have been injured by a defective product, schedule a free consultation with a skilled product liability attorney at Parker Scheer LLP right away. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
What Does A Product Liability Law Firm Do?
What is a product liability lawyer? This is a type of lawyer that represents clients in cases involving defective products. It’s important to work with an attorney because product liability cases can present a number of challenges. One of the most challenging parts of a product liability case is determining what type of defect caused the victim’s injuries. It’s imperative to determine the type of defect in order to identify the liable parties in the case. To do this, an attorney may need to conduct a thorough investigation and call upon expert witnesses for their advice. After liability has been identified, the attorney will begin the process of negotiating with the defendant. Without an attorney, you may not know how to accurately value your claim or prove that you’re entitled to compensation. Product liability attorneys are skilled negotiators who will aggressively fight to ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve.
What Are The Different Types of Product Defects?
There are three different forms of product defects. Some occur at the design and manufacturing stage, while others occur later on in the process. Design defects include any way in which the product design would pose a hazard to a consumer who used it. If the product that causes you harm has a defective design, the product designers would be liable for your injuries. Manufacturing defects are also common. Manufacturing claims range broadly and include anything that happens during the manufacturing process that makes the completed product a hazard, including improper material selection. If the product has a manufacturing defect, it means there was nothing wrong with the design, there were simply errors made during the production of the product. The third type of defect is a marketing or failure to warn defect. These claims stem from the manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer failing to properly warn the use of a potential hazard or dangers of improper use. If the product that causes you harm does not have an adequate warning label, either the manufacturer, retailer, or wholesaler could be liable. A defect at any of these stages can lead to an injury or death for the consumer.
Product defects vary greatly. Some occur at the design and manufacturing stage, including a failure to include proper warnings, confusing instructions, faulty construction and poor design. Design defects include any way in which the product design would pose a hazard, including the product itself and the packaging. Instructions claims stem from the manufacturer failing to properly warn the use of a potential hazard or dangers of improper use. Manufacturing claims range broadly and include anything that happens during the manufacturing process that makes the completed product a hazard, including improper material selection. A defect at any of the stages can lead to an injury or death for the consumer. In Massachusetts, cases brought on behalf of persons injured or killed as a result of defectively designed and/or manufactured products are commonly predicated on theories of negligence and “breach of warranty.” The governing product liability cases provide that a manufacturer of a defective product is legally responsible to persons injured or killed as a result of a product used as intended by the manufacturer or in a way that the manufacturer should reasonably have expected the product to be used. The question of “foreseeability” on the part of product manufacturers and designers is among the most hotly contested issues among lawyers engaged in product liability litigation. This foreseeability applies to all three major areas that the defects usually arise from: design, instructions and manufacturing. The types of defective products cases most commonly fall under one of the following major categories:
- Defective medications
- Defective medical devices
- Defective motor vehicles
- Defective food processors
- Defective sports equipment
- Defective toys
- Defective products subject to “Product Recalls”: This occurs when the manufacturer of a product finds a defect and recalls what has already sold, often in an effort by the company to limit liability for negligence and avoid negative publicity.
Lawyers at Parker Scheer LLP have successfully represented clients injured and killed as a result of a wide range of defective products. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed by a defective product, it’s important to get experienced representation. When choosing a lawyer to handle your product liability case, choose a firm with an established record of success. Choose the law firm of Parker Scheer LLP.
How Can An Attorney Prove Liability When Suing A Company For Negligence?
In Massachusetts, lawsuits brought on behalf of persons injured or killed as a result of defectively designed and/or manufactured products are commonly predicated on theories of negligence and “breach of warranty.” The governing product liability cases provide that a manufacturer of a defective product is legally responsible to anyone who is injured or killed as a result of a product used as intended by the manufacturer or in a way that the manufacturer should reasonably have expected the product to be used. The question of “foreseeability” on the part of product manufacturers and designers is among the most hotly contested issues among lawyers engaged in product liability litigation. This foreseeability applies to all three major areas that the defects usually arise from design, marketing, and manufacturing.
Defective manufacturing is one of the three main types of product liability claims, along with design defects and marketing defects. Design defects occur when a product is inherently dangerous or unable to perform its basic functions due to an issue with its design. Marketing defects occur when a product has any non-obvious dangers that could be prevented through a warning to the user.
This type of defect occurs when a product is made with a defect that was not intended by the manufacturer. It is a departure from the intended design of the product and makes the product more dangerous to the user. If a manufacturing defect is found, the manufacturer is subject to strict liability under product liability law.
What is Strict Liability?
Strict liability means that the manufacturer of the product is liable even if they were not negligent in making the product defective. This is very helpful to plaintiffs in these cases because it is often difficult to prove the manufacturer is guilty of negligence, as it requires proof of the standard of care, breach, and causation. In these cases, the manufacturer will be held liable for all injuries caused by the product. Strict liability is useful in that it encourages manufacturers to put out the best products possible in order to avoid lawsuits and injuries.
The Rationale for Strict Liability
Strict liability also makes it so that manufacturers internalize costs that they would not otherwise, and causes them to evaluate the full cost of each product they produce. Because of this, manufacturers make sure that the product’s absolute good will always outweigh its absolute harm. Those who support strict liability believe that it is better to put this cost on the manufacturer, who can then pass the cost onto the consumer. Therefore, the premium for insurance of defective products is built into the sale price. Strict liability also reduces the costs of litigation. Plaintiffs in manufacturing defect cases–and their product liability attorneys— only need to prove causation (that the product in question actually caused the injury), which leads to more settlements than litigation.
Causes of Defective Manufacturing
There are two common causes of defective manufacturing: poor-quality materials and a lack of care when assembling the product. This type of defect can be prevented through the use of better materials or a higher standard of care during assembly. This is in contrast to a design defect, which leads to a dangerous situation regardless of how it is manufactured. To figure out if the defect at hand is a manufacturing or design one, simply ask yourself if the product would have still caused the injury if it had been properly put together. If it is a design defect, the answer will be yes. If it is a manufacturing defect, the answer will no, the injury would not have occurred if the product was properly put together. Manufacturing defects result from failures during the production of the product, not from the original product plan.
The product recall usually occurs after a safety issue or defect is discovered that presents a risk to the consumer. Common categories of recalls include baby products (toys and furniture), children’s jewelry, appliances, other electronics, prescription drugs, cars, and food. It is estimated that unsafe products cause 27,000 deaths each year, in addition to many other injuries. Children are the most frequent victims of injuries due to recalled products- over one-third of recalls each year involve those for children and babies. However, the number of recalled products continues to grow each year.
A product recall can be issued by a number of different parties. Most originate from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, which is the government agency in charge of product recalls. Over 15,000 different types of consumer products fall under the umbrella of the CPSC. Any products that are not covered by the CPSC are covered by other federal agencies. These include the US Food and Drug Administration, which oversees food, drugs, and cosmetics, and the US Department of Transportation, which oversees automobiles and motorcycles.
In many cases, a product that poses a danger to consumers can remain available for purchase as claims are investigated. Even after a recall occurs the product can remain in consumer homes. Recent statistics have shown that only 15-30% of recalled products are returned.
How Product Recalls Occur
There are two different ways that a product recall can occur. The first of these is when a government agency issues the recall. For this to occur, the agency must find that the product poses a significant risk to consumers due to either a defect or safety violation. Consumer complaints are often key in the occurrence of this type of recall. The second is when the manufacturer of the defective product makes the recall voluntarily. Companies do not have a legal duty to recall unsafe products but can do so. A company will usually issue a product recall to limit liability or in anticipation of recall that the government will issue.
Responding to Recalls
If a product you own has been recalled, immediately discontinue use and remove the product from your home. Next, find the recall notice and read carefully to see what steps you should take. Recalls for toys, food and other common items can be found online at recalls.gov.
Injuries from Recalled Products
If you or someone else in your household has been injured due to a recalled product, you should hire an experienced product liability lawyer. There are many specialized issues relating to product recalls. The sooner you decide to take action, the more evidence the lawyer will be able to recover and preserve to help with your case.
You do not need to be the one who purchased the product or even the user to recover damages. If the product caused your injury while in use by another person, you could still be eligible to receive damages.
PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION IN THE AGE OF DAUBERT AND LANIGAN
As a product liability attorney in Boston, MA, I can tell you like the very products they address, the laws governing defective product liability are constantly evolving. New products, employing even newer technologies, have given rise to failures and resulting injuries that, just a decade ago, were all but unimaginable. Unlike the product failures of yesteryear, which included failed automotive airbag deployment, tire tread failures, and children’s pajamas that burn, the products of the 21st century now involve defective vision-correcting lasers, design errors in computer microprocessor and semiconductor manufacturing, and cellular tower radiation. Just who the courts now allow testifying as “expert witnesses” in these more complex cases has become the subject of intensive debate in courtrooms throughout the United States, including the nation’s highest court. To successfully prosecute a defective product liability case in nearly every jurisdiction, including Massachusetts, the plaintiff’s product liability attorney must be prepared to prove several required “elements” of the claim to succeed at trial. While the nature of these elements may vary somewhat from state to state, the outcome of a product liability case in virtually every jurisdiction typically hinges on the quality of the expert witness testimony offered at trial. Just what is meant by “quality expert testimony” was the subject of a major U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the case of Daubert et ux., individually and as guardians ad litem for Daubert, et al. v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as adopted by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case of Commonwealth v. Lanigan, 419 Mass. 15 (1994) and In Re: Case of Canavan, 48 Mass. App. Ct. 297 (1999). In essence, the Daubert case held that just because someone holds himself out as “an expert” does not, by itself, qualify that person to testify as to theories and opinions that may be honestly held, but do not have the support of the relevant scientific community most qualified to render such opinions. Take, for example, the case of a 28-year-old woman in her fourth week of pregnancy who undergoes an emergency MRI resulting from a minor motor vehicle accident. Two weeks later, the woman miscarries, leading to deep feelings of personal loss and depression. The woman retains a Massachusetts product liability lawyer to investigate two distinct theories as to the cause of her miscarriage: first, that the MRI machine may have somehow caused the resulting miscarriage and, second, if not the MRI, then the car accident itself was to blame. The woman’s product liability attorney then sets out to locate a qualified medical expert to obtain an opinion as to whether the most likely cause of the miscarriage was the MRI or the initial trauma suffered in the motor vehicle accident. After much searching, the woman’s product liability lawyer locates a physician, who, based on his knowledge, training, and experience as a board-certified obstetrician, with more than 30 years of experience treating pregnant women, is prepared to offer his “expert opinion” that the MRI or the trauma caused by the car accident was the most likely causes of the plaintiff’s fetal demise. In response, the defense turns to its own board-certified obstetrician of comparable experience, education, and training, who is prepared to testify in court that in his “expert medical opinion” neither the MRI nor the trauma of the motor vehicle accident had any causal connection to the woman’s miscarriage. He bases his opinion on reams of medical data, which demonstrate that one in four pregnancies results in miscarriage during the first trimester, despite the absence of MRI exposure, physical trauma, or any other known cause. The defense expert also points to numerous articles in leading obstetrical journals and medical textbooks that further support his opinions. At trial, in a pre-Daubert era, the two witnesses would take turns on the witness stand, subject to the rigors of intense cross-examination by opposing counsel, after which the jury would simply decide which of the opinions they found more credible. But in the post-Daubert era, the rules have changed. What Daubert and its Massachusetts companion, Lanigan, did was prescribe a new and heightened standard for the admissibility of expert trial testimony — one that requires substantially more in the way of corroboration and general acceptance in the relevant scientific, engineering, or other professional communities. In short, the decisions sought to keep “junk science” from the ears of less experienced jurors, a goal few would seek to challenge. Unfortunately, it is how the new standard has come to be utilized by opposing counsel that remains suspect. In our earlier example of the woman’s miscarriage, the plaintiff’s expert based his opinion on the fact that the MRI or the trauma of the accident were both likely causes of the resulting fetal demise. But other than his own clinical experience and “gut sense,” there was little, if any, broad scientific or medical support for his opinions. While he did qualify as an expert, capable of offering expert testimony at trial, his opinions did not pass muster under the strict requirements of Daubert and Lanigan. According to the language of the decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Daubert case, for an expert opinion to be regarded as reasonably reliable, it should: (1) be based on a theory or technique that has been subject to scientific testing; (2) be an opinion that has been subjected to peer review or publication; (3) be an opinion that accepted test results generally confirm, and (4) be an opinion that is generally accepted within the relevant scientific community. But how should such a standard be applied to cases involving relatively new product technologies that result in a serious injury? Take, for example, a case where a man undergoes treatment for laser vision correction, and the laser – a technology only recently approved for such use – results in the patient’s permanent loss of correctable vision. The likelihood that the patient’s product liability lawyer would be capable of meeting the standard under the Daubert and Lanigan cases by providing published articles or other peer review summaries, where no similar prior incident had yet been reported, is slim. This could, in fact, create an insurmountable hurdle for the plaintiff, and effectively serve as a bar to compensation. There is no dispute that “junk science” has no place in the courtroom. Unfortunately, the standards put in place by the Commonwealth’s highest court provide large corporations that design and manufacture defective products with yet another mechanism for denying justice to innocent victims.
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If you have suffered an injury due to a defective or dangerous product, please contact us for a free, confidential case review and receive a response within hours after filling out this form. You can also call our office to speak with an attorney at law at (617) 886-0500. Our lawyers have decades of experience providing legal help to consumers who have been injured by defective products.