Are the products you buy safely? If you are injured by a defective product, how can you prove it? Can you be compensated if a product injures you? Can a product liability attorney in Boston, MA help?
Anything you buy might be a defective consumer item: a toy, a tool, electronics, an appliance, a food or drug product, an auto part, even a piece of heavy machinery or construction equipment.
IN WHAT WAYS CAN A CONSUMER PRODUCT BE DEFECTIVE?
Far too many defective products are sold to consumers. In the U.S. in 2015, federal agencies issued over 4,000 product recalls.
A consumer product may be defective in one of three ways:
1. A product with a design defect was created that way and is intrinsically dangerous.
2. A mistake during an item’s assembly or production can cause a manufacturing defect
3. Insufficient labeling or inadequate warnings and instructions accompanying an item may constitute a marketing defect.
When a defective product injures someone, the first legal step is determining the party or parties responsible. It may sound easy, but deciding whom to target with a product liability lawsuit is sometimes quite complicated.
WHAT LEGAL CONCEPTS ARE INVOLVED IN PRODUCT LIABILITY CASES?
Complicated legal rules and theories of liability and recovery also apply in product liability cases.
An injury victim in Massachusetts may recover damages from a defective product’s manufacturer, distributor, or retailer based on one of these three legal concepts:
1. strict liability
3. breach of warranty
WHAT IS STRICT LIABILITY?
In most personal injury cases, to hold another party liable for your injuries, you must show that the other party was negligent, and you must show that the negligence was a direct cause of your personal injury or injuries.
But in cases involving injuries caused by defective consumer items, the concept of strict liability allows an injury victim to recover compensation without having to prove that any specific incident of negligence took place.
If a manufacturer makes a defective product or a retailer sells a defective product, and someone is injured, under strict liability, the manufacturer or retailer may be automatically liable.
In other words, if you are injured using a defective consumer item, you are probably entitled to compensation from the maker of the product or from whoever sold or rented you the product.
However, strict liability applies against a retailer only if the retailer routinely sells or rents those types of items. If you buy a used item off Craigslist or at a garage sale or a thrift shop, strict liability probably will not apply.
HOW DOES AN INJURY VICTIM PREVAIL WITH A STRICT LIABILITY CLAIM?
You can prevail in Massachusetts with a product liability claim based on strict liability if you can prove these three assertions:
1. A defect that made the product “unreasonably dangerous” emerged in the design of the product, it’s manufacturing, or its handling.
2. The defect caused the plaintiff’s injury while the item was being used as intended.
3. The product had not substantially changed from its original condition in any way that impacted the product’s performance.
If you sue for product liability, you will have to prove that the product was being used as intended. If you injure yourself by improperly using a product that isn’t actually defective, you have no case.
Strict liability also may not apply if you owned a defective product for a period of time and you knew about the defect, but you continued using the product and you were eventually injured.
WHAT IS BREACH OF WARRANTY?
Don’t confuse a “breach of warranty” product liability claim with a claim for an item’s replacement or repair under warranty.
When you buy a consumer product, you presume that it has been sold in good faith and will perform as expected.
To sue on a breach-of-warranty basis, a plaintiff is claiming – and must prove – that he or she was injured because the warranty was false or inaccurate.
In some product liability cases, consumers in Massachusetts may also claim legal protection under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses in this state from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
WHAT’S COVERED AND WHAT’S ALLOWED BY PRODUCT LIABILITY LAWS?
Only sold or rented items are covered by product liability statutes.
Before the modern era, only the original purchaser of a product could be compensated if the product caused an injury, but today, anyone who’s injured by a consumer product may file for damages.
In fact, all of the parties in a defective product’s chain of distribution could theoretically be held liable for injuries caused by that defective product.
HOW CAN CONSUMERS PROTECT THEMSELVES?
Always save your sales receipts. Here’s why. If you’re injured, for example, using a power tool that’s been in your tool shed for years, you may not even remember where you purchased it.
A product’s labels also wear and fade over time, so a receipt may be the only way to connect an item to its manufacturer and retailer. You can’t be compensated for an injury if you don’t know who caused it.
If you are injured in Massachusetts by a defective or dangerous consumer product, a Boston product liability attorney can explain your rights and legal options – which may include a product liability lawsuit.
IF A PRODUCT RELATED INJURY HAPPENS, WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE?
If a product-related injury happens, obtain medical treatment at once. That’s the top priority.
Also try to gather some at-the-scene evidence: photos of the scene, a receipt or some other proof of the item’s purchase, and the names and contact info of anyone who witnessed your injury.
Until you can speak to a lawyer, you’ll need to compile evidence yourself. But after you’ve obtained medical treatment, speak at once with an experienced Boston product liability attorney.
For protecting yourself and your family from defective products, the best approach is basic: Read and follow the directions for every product you buy.
In a world where airbags and cell phones explode without warning, there’s no way to guarantee that a product-related injury can be avoided.
However, if you are injured by a defective product, you should know that most product liability lawyers offer a free initial consultation, so it will cost you nothing to learn more about your case and your rights.
Nothing is more important than your health and your future. If you need legal help regarding a product-related injury, get that help immediately.
Eric J. Parker, the Managing Partner of Parker Scheer LLP, has over 30 years’ experience representing victims in complex personal injury cases. He is active in many legal associations and has won many awards for performance and principles. Eric believes in giving back to the community and supports young scholars and law students by acting as faculty and mentor to them.