As consumers, we have the right to expect that the goods we purchase are safe. Unfortunately, many products sold for use in homes or businesses are rife with hazards and defects which can injure, maim, or kill innocent victims.
If you or someone you love was hurt by a defective or dangerous product, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses, pain, and suffering through a product liability claim. Manufacturers and retailers have a duty to keep their products safe for consumers, and may be held liable for compensating any deaths or injuries which occur as a result of flawed design, fabrication, or storage. The attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm can help. Even if you are not certain that the product was wholly at fault for the injury or death, you should still consult with our attorneys as the law does not require defective products to be 100% at fault for injuries.
Injuries due to mistakes such as a manufacturing defect can cause serious, life-changing injuries. A plaintiff, however, must meet a high burden of proof to convince a judge and/or jury to award compensation. Working with an experienced product defect lawyer, such as the lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm, can increase the likelihood that you will be able to carry this burden and convince a judge or jury to award compensation for your life-altering injuries.
Our Pennsylvania product liability attorneys have over 30 years of experience and have recovered millions of dollars in damages for our clients. However, you have only a limited amount of time to file your claim, so it is essential that you contact us as soon as possible. To arrange for a free and private case evaluation, call our law offices at (215) 709-6940 today.
Understanding Product Liability Laws
In most states, product liability actions are quite different than the classic negligence action that many people may be somewhat familiar with. Rather, product liability actions proceed under a modified strict liability framework in Pennsylvania. Unlike in a negligence action, one does not have to prove that the company’s actions fell below expected standards for behavior. Rather, an injured party must simply show that the product was defective. The conduct of the manufacturer and whether they were negligent in manufacturing the good is not a core element of a product liability action.
Pennsylvania’s handling of strict liability actions is rather unique among the states. While many states have moved towards the approach set forth in the 3rd Restatement of Torts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has taken a unique approach. In Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. the court overruled the longstanding 1978 standard set forth in Azzarello v. Black Bros. Co. Today in Pennsylvania, the court approaches strict liability issues through a consumer expectation and risk-utility approach. Under a consumer expectations approach the inquiry centers around what a reasonable consumer would expect regarding the safety of the product. The risk-utility approach to a defective product weighs the risk of harm against the product’s uses and the costs of taking precautions to avoid it. Under the Tincher standard, an injured plaintiff must show that they can satisfy at least one of these approaches to product liability actions.
This occurs when products differ from the intended design, and the defect causes bodily injuries or death. For example, if a manufacturer of packaged foods permits bacteria, glass or other contaminants to spoil its products, a consumer that is sickened by the product may have a manufacturing defect claim.
A manufacturing defect can provide the basis for a product liability lawsuit. Nearly any consumer good can be manufactured in a way that was not intended such that the product becomes unreasonably dangerous or likely to inflict serious. For instance a chair can be manufactured with improper materials that significantly weakens it strength increasing the risk of a fall due to a chair collapse. In other cases a hair dryer may be designed properly but the materials used in the heating coils may be other than what the specifications called for resulting in excessive heat that causes severe burns to the scalp and head of the user.
What is Considered a “Manufacturing Defect”?
A manufacturing defect is one type of problem that can exist with a manufactured product that is sold to the public. Other common product liability actions that are related to manufacturing defects include design defects and failure to warn concerns. However, a manufacturing defect occurs when a product is built or otherwise manufactured in some way differently than how the plans specify. The difference in how the product was manufactured makes the product dangerous for its intended uses. Examples of manufacturing defects could include:
- A tire that is manufactured with an improper rubber composition that makes the tire prone to blow-outs at high speeds.
- A frozen food product that erroneously contains a hazardous chemical likely has a manufacturing defect
- A car or truck with a gas pedal that sticks causing unintended acceleration due to an improperly manufactured part.
- A soda bottle that is manufactured with a thinner layer of glass than specifications call for making the bottle more likely to explode under pressure.
The easiest way to distinguish whether the defect in question is a manufacturing defect or a design defect is to ask, “If this product was assembled or built as the plans called for, would the problem still exist?” These are only a few of the possible types of manufacturing defects. Many other problems can be introduced to a product during its manufacturing.
This occurs when products present a safety hazard as designed, such as when a circular saw lacks a safety guard. With their high centers of gravity and weak crush-prone roofs, 15-passenger vans are another example of defective design.
Failures to Warn
This occurs when the manufacturer does not provide adequate warnings or instructions to caution the consumer of a known danger, such as a child’s toy which does not contain warnings about choking or suffocation hazards. Pennsylvania’s product laws also provide that manufacturers and suppliers may even be found liable if a product was not being used in the way it was intended, deeming these warnings so important. In addition to clearly labeled warnings, certain products must also list age-related restrictions regarding the sale, use, or purchase. Failure to provide these warnings may constitute a product defect regardless of if the product was being used correctly or if the product was being misused.
Product liability cases can include a wide range of consumer goods and industrial products, including but not limited to:
- Defective cars and car parts, including faulty seat belts, brakes, airbags, and tires
- Dangerous toys, including toys made with lead paint or small magnetic pieces
- Faulty electrical products
- Malfunctioning elevators and escalators
- Defective household appliances, such as toaster ovens or coffee makers
- Defective medical devices, such as pacemakers or implants
- Dangerous prescription drugs, over-the-counter cough and cold medications, and dietary supplements
What are Your Legal Rights as a Consumer?
Product liability law is quite complicated, and proving that a product is defective or that the fault lies with the manufacturer or supplier, is often a difficult feat. These types of litigations take strenuous and thorough investigations and follow a precise set of laws, laid out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Recently the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced new standards for strict liability claims. The previous law focused on the plaintiff proving that the product was unreasonably dangerous, however, the new laws are not so subjective. As the law states now, if you file a product liability claim, you must prove that the product is in a “defective condition”. There are two ways in which you can prove “defective condition”: either that the average consumer couldn’t have predicted or known the risk, or that the average consumer concluded that the likelihood of harm outweighs the cost of taking precautions.
What a consumer, like you, should take away from these new changes in liability law is that it is now harder for plaintiffs to recover compensation for strict liability claims. Therefore it is extremely important to have an experienced and knowledgeable accident attorney, who has an extensive background, as well as an understanding of the most current liability standards.
Questions a Judge or Jury May Have Regarding Your Defective Product Injury
Judges and juries will likely need explanations for numerous contingencies. Questions asked about your injury due to a defectively manufactured product might include:
- What were the precise circumstances of the accident?
- What was the severity of the injury inflicted?
- Has the injury persisted? What effects has it had on the individual’s ability to independently complete tasks and live?
- Could a person of average intelligence have made the same mistake under similar circumstances?
- What were the other possible causes of the accident/injury? Can the plaintiff prove that a manufacturing defect and not one of those other causes was in fact directly or indirectly responsible for damages?
- Did the injured person contribute to causing his or her own injury?
To succeed with a defective product liability suit, you also must identify whether the defect was a product of engineering or of production. One way to make this distinction is to look at other products manufactured from the same design. Did all of these other products yield similar safety hazards? If only a handful of products exhibited the defect, one might assume the problem had to do with flawed manufacturing. On the other hand, if all or a majority of products exhibited defects, the design would likely be to blame. An experienced product liability attorney can work to answer these and other questions regarding your injury.
Our Philadelphia Product Liability Attorneys Can Help
Given the exacting legal procedures that must be followed when filing a manufacturing defect liability case, it’s important for a plaintiff to retain experienced, strategic, and meticulous counsel. The Philadelphia consumer product attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm have fought and won liability law suits for hundreds of clients. Time and again, we’ve shown wise judgment, legal acumen, and an aggressive attitude at trial. While every matter is different and the ultimate decision lies with a judge or jury, our experienced team will always advocate aggressively for our clients.
The Pennsylvania product liability lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm have over 90 collective years of experience and know-how to investigate claims to the fullest. Along with our extensive legal background, we strive to help our clients recover physically, emotionally, and financially in any way that we can and fight so that they can begin the healing process. If you or someone you love has been injured because of a faulty product, design flaw, or malfunction, call our law offices at (215) 709-6940, and speak to a lawyer for free today.