What Has to Be Proven in a Product Liability Case?


Defective products can cause serious or even fatal injuries. Fortunately, Ohio law creates a statutory cause of action for product liability. Under this law, you can seek damages arising from injuries in a product liability case.

Defining Product Liability

Under Ohio law, a product liability claim is a civil claim for injuries caused by a product. The statute gives three options for proving this type of case:

  • A defect in the product’s manufacture or design
  • A warning, instruction, or lack thereof associated with the product
  • A breach of product representation or warranty

Your product liability lawyer must prove different elements for each of these options.

Design Defects

A product has a design defect when its foreseeable risks outweigh its benefits as it was designed or formulated. An example of a design defect comes from lawn darts. These products were intended for entertainment but killed at least three children. Thus, their risks far outweighed their benefits.

Manufacturing Defects

A manufacturing defect exists when a product materially deviates from its design specifications. Bridgestone/Firestone tires contained a manufacturing defect because one factory applied the adhesive layer binding to the treads with the wrong thickness and in conditions too hot and humid to meet the adhesive’s specifications.

Failure to Warn/Inadequate Instructions

Warning defects occur when the instructions fail to warn about a risk the manufacturer knew or should have known about. For instance, cigarettes had a warning defect because tobacco companies knew smoking caused cancer but refused to add a warning until the government required it.

Establishing Liability for Defective Products

Ohio law sets out the requirements for proving liability for defective products. These vary depending on the type of defect alleged, including:

Design Defects

When weighing benefits and risks, the jury or claims adjuster considers the following factors:

  • The harm in light of the intended and foreseeable uses and modifications
  • Users’ awareness of the risks of using the product
  • The likelihood of harm from intended and foreseeable uses of the product
  • The level of conformity of the product to product standards
  • The dangers expected by a reasonably prudent consumer when using it

When weighing the benefits, you consider these factors:

  • The intended and actual utility of the product and the design’s advantages
  • The feasibility of alternative designs
  • The foreseeable risks of alternative designs

Manufacturers can defend their products by showing the defect to be an inherent characteristic of the product that’s known to consumers. For example, knives are sharp, and sharpness isn’t a design defect.

Another defense is that an alternate design was impractical or technically infeasible. Returning to the knife example, there may be ways of using lasers or saw blades to cut, but neither method is practical for everyday kitchen use. Finally, drug and medical device manufacturers can defend themselves by proving they warned of an unavoidably unsafe aspect of their products.

Manufacturing Defects

Injured consumers can pursue claims for manufacturing defects even when the manufacturer exercised all possible care. In other words, manufacturers are strictly liable for manufacturing defects. Injured consumers only need to prove the products were defective when they left the manufacturer and that the defect caused their injuries.

Failure to Warn/Inadequate Instructions

To establish liability for a warning defect, the consumer must prove that the manufacturer knew or should have known of the risk that injured them. Crucially, of course, the manufacturer must also have failed to provide a warning or instruction. They can also show that the manufacturer failed to include a post-sale warning that it later learned about.

Manufacturers have two defenses. First, they do not need to warn or instruct about an open and obvious risk. Second, drug manufacturers do not need to warn consumers if they give adequate warnings to the doctor who prescribed it.

What Must Be Proven in a Product Liability Case

In addition to proving that the product contained a design, manufacturing, or warning defect, your product liability attorney must also prove that you suffered harm and that the product caused it.

In other words, if the defective product did not cause an injury, you may have a warranty claim but not a personal injury claim. For a personal injury claim, you must suffer a bodily injury traceable to the product.

Linking the Defect to Harm Suffered

Causation typically involves two elements. First, you must show the injury was a logical and natural result of the product defect. If you misused the product in an unforeseeable way, your injury might not have been a natural result of the product defect. You can stop here for a manufacturing defect.

Design and warning defects also incorporate a second element. The injury must be a foreseeable consequence of the product’s use or known misuse.

Building a Strong Product Liability Case

Your lawyer will gather as much information about the product as possible. Evidence of injuries to other consumers can help build your case. Your lawyer will also hire experts, like engineers or scientists, to analyze the product and its defects.


Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

What Happens if I Misused the Product?

You can still recover compensation for product misuse if it is foreseeable. For example, manufacturers know babies put toys in their mouths. As a result, they should not include toxic chemicals in infant toys.

What Damages Can I Recover?

You can get compensation for your economic and non-economic losses, such as medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

What if the Manufacturer Is Located Overseas?

You may be able to pursue a claim in Ohio courts against overseas manufacturers if you can show they had contacts with the state, such as by signing contracts or leasing offices.

Seek Help From a Product Liability Attorney

A product defect can cause permanent injuries that disable you. Contact The Moore Law Firm to discuss your injuries and the compensation you can pursue under Ohio’s product liability laws.

Get in Touch

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one as a result of another person's negligence, you deserve to be fully compensated for your losses. The simple fact is that you should not be forced to pay the price for another person's careless or reckless actions.