It almost goes without saying that we expect the products we buy to be safe to use. But, unfortunately, not everything on the market today meets this basic standard. As a result, people get hurt.
If you’ve suffered a serious injury because of a defective product in Miami, you may have a product liability case. Florida state law recognizes three types of claims, depending on what when wrong with the item before it reached the consumer. Determining what caused your product to become defective or dangerous will be critical at the beginning stages of your product liability case.
Overview of Product Liability Claims in Florida
Now, a product liability claim may be brought against an item’s manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, or retailer. In Florida, these lawsuits are based on what is known as “strict liability,” which means that you don’t need to prove that someone was at fault or intended to hurt you. Instead, you must show only that:
- The product was defective – in one of the three ways discussed below
- The product defect caused injury or damage, and
- The product was defective when it left the control of the defendant.
Note that this is a different and much higher standard than in most personal injuries cases.
Defective Design Cases
One way that a product can be found defective is due to a faulty design. In this case, an item is manufactured according to specifications, but the original design is unsafe. To be successful, you must show that the design is “unreasonably dangerous.”
Keep in mind that courts use what is known as the “consumer expectation test” to determine whether or not a product is unreasonably dangerous. This requires you to prove that the item failed to perform safely as an ordinary consumer would expect it to when used as intended or in a manner that was reasonably foreseeable.
For example, toys for small children that pose a risk for choking might be considered unreasonably dangerous. This is because while the toys are not intended to be used this way, it is reasonably foreseeable that a toddler would put this product in his or her mouth.
Manufacturing Defect Claims
Another basis for a defective product claim is that there was a manufacturing defect in the construction of the item. Here, there was nothing dangerous or faulty about the design, but the product was not made according to these specifications. An example would be if the brakes on a car were installed incorrectly at the factory.
Note that your injury must be caused while you were using the product for its intended purpose and be due to the manufacturing defect. In other words, using the example above, your claim would not be actionable if you hit your head on the car door of a vehicle with defective brakes that was turned off. Keep in mind that with these claims it is the manufacturer that holds all liability, not the designer, wholesaler, or retailer.
Warning and Label Defects
Finally, there are so-called “marketing defects” that can also make products defective. With these items, there was nothing wrong with the designing or manufacturing processes, however, the product lacked sufficient warnings about dangers associated with its intended use.
Again, the product must be rendered unreasonably dangerous due to its lack of warnings. An example would be a medication bottle that does not warn the patient about the harmful side effects of the medicine.
Defenses to Product Liability Claims
As you might imagine, there are a number of defenses that can be raised to these types of claims.
The Product Didn’t Cause the Injury
First, it could be argued that the product did not cause your injury. For example, if you were using a defective lawnmower and tripped over a tree branch breaking your arm, it could not be said that the product caused the injury.
Injury Wasn’t Reasonably Foreseeable
Another defense is that your use of the product was unforeseeable. For instance, if you used your living room sofa to stand on while you changed a light bulb leading to injury, this is not the intended use of the product and most likely not foreseeable.
You’re Partly to Blame
Note that sometimes a plaintiff shares in the blame for a defective product injury. Now, unless you were 100% responsible, this doesn’t necessarily bar you from recovering compensation. But, your award will be reduced based on how much you were at fault. For example, if a jury finds you to be 25% to blame for injuries totaling $100,000 in damages, the most you would be entitled to recover is $75,000.
The Product Was Modified
Also, keep in mind that a manufacturer is only liable if the product was in the same condition as it was when it left their control. This means that you would not be entitled to compensation if the item was modified by you or someone else.
You Assumed the Risk
Finally, you can’t recover on the basis of product liability if you knew about the danger of the item and assumed the risk. It’s important to recognize that this may be implied based on the product. The test is whether a reasonable person would see the item as dangerous, which takes into account any warning labels.