Product liability is a legal theory that allows consumers to hold manufacturers and sellers liable for their damages after they have been injured by a defective product. Generally, these defects fall under three categories: defects of design, defects of manufacture or defects of marketing.
The first two of these categories are relatively easy to understand, but the third can be somewhat vague. Essentially, marketing defects involve a product that was designed and manufactured properly, but was marketed in a way that made it unsafe.
For example, an automobile tire may be designed to be used at speeds below 75 mph. For that purpose, it has been designed well and has been manufactured well. However, sportscars are made to go much faster than 75 mph, and they are sold to people who like to drive at high speeds.
Now, let’s say a driver buys a new sportscar with these tires and travels down a quiet highway at 85 mph when one of the tires blows out, causing the car to spin out of control and crash. The driver is badly injured and sues the tire manufacturer for their damages.
In such a case, a court might consider that sportscars are made to go well over 75 mph and sold to people who like to drive at high speeds. Therefore, the tires were marketed in a way that made them unsafe. This is a marketing defect.
To escape this type of liability, manufacturers often put warnings on their products. For instance, in the example of the tires above, the manufacturer might make sure every tire has a warning label that says it should not be used at high speeds.
However, it’s not enough for a manufacturer to simply slap a warning on a product and be done. The warning must be clear and specific.
To take an example from the real world, the manufacturer of a furniture stripping compound was once held liable after its product caught fire and damaged three businesses. In this case, a worker had left a jar of the product in a boiler room, where flames ignited vapor from the compound, starting the fire.
In this case, the court noted that the manufacturer had a warning saying that the compound was flammable, but did not indicate that vapor from the product could catch fire. Thus, the worker was not adequately warned of the risks.
For the injured
Product liability can have a broad reach, and courts can be strict about a duty to warn. However, this doesn’t mean these cases are easy for the injured to win. Those who have been injured by a product that was not safe can speak to experienced professionals about how the law may apply to their unique cases.