In legal terms, a defective product is defined as a commercial good that is not fit for consumer use, contains inadequate instructions, or has a condition that makes it unreasonably dangerous for its intended purposes.
Legal actions that arise after a party is injured by a defective product are known as product liability lawsuits. A person may file a claim for products liability against the manufacturer (or some other entity within the chain of distribution) of a product when a defect in that product causes the person to suffer physical harm.
As an example, suppose you purchased a brand new hair dryer. Suppose that after using it only one time, the hair dryer then either electrocuted you or overheated and exploded, causing you to sustain significant injuries.
If you can prove that there was an inherent flaw in how the product was designed or that an error was made during the manufacturing process, which caused the product to deviate from its original design, then you may be able to recover monetary damages for your injuries.
In general, there are three main types of product defects that a products liability claim can be categorized as:
- Design defects: Design defects occur in the original creation of a product. In other words, a product may have been designed in a manner that is inherently flawed and thus the defect does not stem from some error or incident caused by an external party like a manufacturer.
- For example, if a hair dryer always catches fire after a single use because it is designed to reach a certain degree of heat, then this issue may be the result of a design defect.
- Manufacturing defects: On the other hand, a manufacturing defect has nothing to do with how a product is designed, but how it is manufactured. In other words, the design may be perfectly safe, but the way that a manufacturer assembles the product makes it unsafe. Alternatively, a manufacturing defect can also arise if there was an error in the manufacturing process and the manufacturer failed to notice or fix it.
- Marketing or warning defects: Failing to warn consumers about the risks of using a product, not including proper instructions or placing inadequate warning labels on a product, or advertising products in a way that encourages improper use of a product, are all kinds of product defects that could give rise to legal liability.
Additionally, each one of the above defects has its own procedural requirements and elements of proof. It is also important to keep in mind that these are only the three main labels used to classify products liability claims. Thus, there may be other ways that a product can injure a person, such as if a product contains a hidden defect like a toxic chemical (e.g., asbestos) or causes an unknown side-effect (e.g., prescription medications).
Regardless of how a defective product may have injured a person, that person has a right to file a claim against the entity who may be responsible for their injuries and to be reimbursed by them if they can prove their case. To learn more about defective product lawsuits or to file a claim for a defective product, you should speak to a local defective products lawyer immediately for further legal advice on the matter.
What are Examples of Defective Products?
As discussed above, any product that is inherently flawed, manufactured and/or distributed in a way that causes a defect, or is placed into the stream of commerce with insufficient warning labels or improper instructions, can become the subject of a defective products lawsuit.
Some examples of defective products that have resulted in a products liability lawsuit include the following:
- Automobiles and/or auto parts: Over the years, a number of defective products cases have involved automobiles and/or their parts. Some automobile defective products cases have been based on defects or errors found in vehicle systems, tires, airbags, seat belts, and even car paint. Entire cars and trucks have also been common subjects of product recalls.
- For example, the Ford Explorer became the focus of a series of defective product liability claims.
- Baxter Dialyzers: Baxter dialyzers were a type of machine that was used in kidney dialysis. Unfortunately, it was discovered that the Baxter dialyzer was releasing toxic chemicals into patients’ bloodstreams, which resulted in serious injuries and death to those patients who were exposed. Eventually, this led to the Baxter dialyzer being recalled from the market.
- Breast Implants: Silicone breast implants sometimes rupture or leak, which then enables silicone to enter the body. When this happens, the silicone can cause pain, tenderness, and other serious medical issues in people who receive silicone breast implants. Thus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has since banned silicone from being used in breast implants under most circumstances.
- This ban arose due to the multiple class actions lawsuits that were continuously being filed against manufacturers of silicone breast implants.
- Food Contamination: Food contamination cases can involve foreign material and/or harmful bacteria found in food. In addition, food manufacturers must comply with the FDA’s safety and labeling requirements. Violations of the FDA’s requirements can lead to recalls and various lawsuits. Beverages may also be included under this category.
- Heart Valve Replacement: Heart valve replacement surgery can extend a patient’s life significantly. However, it was discovered that a St. Jude Medical cardiac replacement valve was causing infections and heart failure in patients who received them because of a defect with the Silzone coating on the valves.
- Sulzer Hip Implant: Some Sulzer hip implants were found to have been improperly treated with a certain machining oil. This resulted in creating hip implants that contained loose hardware and also caused pain and significant health issues to patients who had them. Sulzer opted to settle the class action lawsuit that had been brought against them for roughly $1 billion U.S. dollars.
- Tobacco: There have been numerous class actions filed against tobacco companies and manufacturers. Plaintiffs to these actions have sought relief based on misleading advertising, fraud, defective products, secondhand smoke injuries, and many other tobacco-related issues.
What is a Defective Products Class Action?
A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit that is filed by a representative plaintiff on behalf of a larger group of people who have the same or very similar claims. Class action lawsuits can often help to reduce the costs of litigation and increase judicial efficiency. However, the process for initiating and litigating a class action lawsuit can sometimes be extremely complicated.
For instance, all class action matters must first identify a named party to represent the whole class. Next, the class in the lawsuit must be certified in accordance with certain legal standards. Then, finally, all of the elements and requirements for a particular matter must be satisfied to prove the claim and prevail in the lawsuit.
Thus, a defective products class action is simply a lawsuit based on a claim for a defective product that has harmed multiple individuals in the same or in a very similar manner. As an example, suppose a large awards show was being held in a particular city and throughout the show, thousands of attendees would be served a specific type of alcohol.
If it can be proven that every attendee who drank that specific type of alcohol suffered adverse effects because it contained poison, then all of those attendees may be able to certify themselves as a class. They may bring a defective products class action lawsuit against the manufacturer or distributor of that alcohol. In some states, retailers may be held liable too.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Defective Products Class Action?
In general, defective product claims tend to require a complicated analysis of various materials, including company records, medical evidence, technical studies, and an overall examination of the facts in a specific case. Separately, the process of obtaining a particular certification to initiate a class action lawsuit can be quite complex as well since it necessitates extensive knowledge of the relevant laws and competent legal experience.
Accordingly, in combining these two procedures together (i.e., a defective products class action lawsuit), it is strongly recommended that you hire a local class action lawyer for further legal assistance. Failing to retain counsel for such matters can cause you to make costly mistakes.
A lawyer who has experience in handling defective products class action lawsuits will already be familiar with the laws and requirements that are necessary to litigate such cases. Your lawyer can review the facts of your defective products case and will be able to determine whether you have a viable claim.
Your lawyer can also help you initiate a class action lawsuit based on that claim, and can assist you in preparing and drafting any relevant legal documents as well. Additionally, your lawyer can answer any questions you may have about the process and can discuss the kinds of remedies you may be able to recover if the lawsuit is successful.
Finally, your lawyer can provide representation in court for you as an individual or as the named member of a class action lawsuit. Alternatively, your lawyer can also represent you during negotiation sessions to reach a suitable compromise for a settlement agreement.