What Is Product Liability? Definition and Examples


What is product liability? All businesses and individuals must follow certain standards to help keep consumers safe. “Product liability” refers to the legal responsibility that product makers, distributors, and retailers may face when a product of theirs is defective and causes an injury.

The law in Ohio establishes a high bar for those who put products in the marketplace. When a product harms or kills, the victim need not even prove negligence. Product providers are held strictly liable for the injuries caused by their defective products.

How to Define Product Liability

Product liability is an area of law that applies to harmful products. It is considered strict liability, which means the victims who are injured by defective products need only prove that they were harmed by the product and that the product was defective. Whether a party was negligent has no bearing.

However, the foreseeability of a specific use of a product factors heavily in product liability cases in Ohio. In other words, product makers are responsible for injuries that occur during the reasonably foreseeable uses of their products. Without this requirement, product makers would be on the hook for practically every injury under the sun.

For example, using a saw to cut wood is a reasonably foreseeable use of a saw. However, using a saw to intentionally harm another person is likely not foreseeable.

Differences Between Design, Manufacturing, and Marketing Defects

Understanding the answer to the question “What is product liability?” requires understanding three of the main types of defects that products may suffer from.

Design Defects

Design defects are defects in the actual design of a product. The problems don’t occur during the manufacturing process. Instead, the flaw is in the actual blueprint of the product. No matter how scrupulous the manufacturing facility is, the product will come out with a dangerous defect.

Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects, on the other hand, are problems with the manufacturing process but not with the actual design of the product. For example, manufacturing defects could come about through the use of faulty or cheaper parts that are more prone to failure.

Marketing Defects

Marketing defects are problems with the advertising and marketing of a product that make the product dangerous. For example, claiming that children of a certain age can use a product that is simply too dangerous for them may be an instance of a marketing defect.

The Role of Manufacturers, Sellers, and Distributors in Product Liability

Manufacturers, sellers, and distributors earn money from the marketplace. This is one reason Ohio law places a great duty of care on these types of businesses. The privilege of using the marketplace to make a profit comes with the enormous responsibility to ensure that consumers are safe.

Holding businesses strictly liable gives them a great incentive to prevent dangerously defective products from showing up on shelves.

Examples of Product Liability Cases

You have likely heard of cases involving liability for defective products. Product liability cases are common and often newsworthy when they affect many consumers or large regions of the country.

For example, most have heard of the product liability case involving McDonald’s and a customer who was burned by hot coffee. In that case, a production defect resulted in the coffee being served hotter than it reasonably should have been.

Other types of defects include:

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Research and testing
  • Assembly
  • Advertising and marketing

Whether a manufacturer, designer, or retailer knew about a risk or not does not matter for liability purposes. As long as the usage of the product that caused the injury was foreseeable, liability can still attach.

Should I Hire a Product Liability Lawyer to Represent Me?

If you have been injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to significant compensation. However, without an attorney fighting for you, you face an uphill battle alone.

Insurance companies fight hard to control the amount of compensation they pay out. Victims without defective product lawyers must go head-to-head with professional adjusters who are adept at finding reasons to pay claimants less or deny their claims.

If you have a lawyer fighting for you, your attorney will negotiate with penny-pinching adjusters and urge them to pay what they owe or face a trial by jury. Since juries are often sympathetic to consumers, many companies try to avoid product liability trials whenever possible.

How Much Does a Product Liability Lawyer Charge?

Product liability lawyers charge a contingency fee. The fee is ultimately based on the total compensation your attorney wins on your behalf. Generally speaking, you can expect the fee to be between 30% and 40% of your total compensation.

There are also certain costs associated with product liability lawsuits and compensation claims that you might be responsible for. However, most attorneys front these costs and recoup them when your settlement or verdict comes in. They may include court costs and filing fees, costs to hire expert witnesses, and other related expenses.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Lawsuits?

Ohio has a two-year statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits. After two years, valid claims and lawsuits become void unless they qualify for an exception. Common exceptions to the statute of limitations include:

  • Cases where the victim was a minor
  • Cases involving victims with unsound minds
  • Cases involving defendants who have left the state or are trying to hide

These exceptions can effectively pause the statute of limitations. However, most product liability cases do not qualify for an exception and must, therefore, be filed within two years of the harm.

Justice for Your Injuries Caused by Defective Products

If a dangerously defective product has caused you harm, consider hiring an experienced product liability lawyer to help you pursue justice through compensation. The Moore Law Firm is ready to meet and discuss the details of your case and help you answer the question, “What is product liability?”

Call today and take the first step toward the money you deserve.

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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.