What is Product Liability Law?
Definition of Product Liability Law
In the U.S., most people believe that when a consumer buys a product and uses that product for its intended purpose, that product should be safe to use. If a consumer gets hurt by a product, they can bring a products liability suit against that product’s seller, manufacturer, or designer, depending on what caused the injury.
Terms to Know
- Warranty: The inherent promise that comes with a product which ensures that the product is fit for its intended use.
- Negligence: The legal doctrine which says that a manufacturer may be liable for a defective product if they could have foreseen that a product defect would cause injury.
- Strict Liability: The legal doctrine which says that a manufacturer may be liable for a defective product when that product injures a consumer, whether or not that defect was the manufacturer’s fault.
Practice Area Notes
Given the sheer number of products on the market in the U.S., there is a huge variety in the types of products liability cases that can be brought. Products liability law covers all of the following products (and then some):
- Medical devices, which includes everything from surgical gloves to artificial limbs;
- Home appliances;
- Tobacco, guns, and other inherently dangerous products.
Consequently, product liabilities lawyers may choose to specialize in bringing suits about a particular type of product. Like accidents and injuries attorneys, products liability attorneys generally fall into two types: plaintiffs’ attorneys and defense attorneys.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys usually practice in small law firms and get paid through contingency fees, that is, they take a percentage of any damages award or settlement. Unlike accident and injuries attorneys, many product liability attorneys may work for larger firms with the resources to find multiple consumers that were injured by the same product. These attorneys then bring “class action lawsuits” on behalf of all the injured consumers. Plaintiffs’ attorneys face a serious challenge due to the rise of state-specific tort reform laws, which seek to limit the number and type of lawsuits that can be brought against the companies that furnish defective products.
Defense attorneys often get paid an hourly fee and typically work as employees for the companies involved in designing, manufacturing, and selling products on the U.S. marketplace.
Related Practice Areas
- Accidents and Injuries: Product Liability is a subset of Accidents and Injuries law.
- Litigation: Many product liability claims end up in the court room.
- Consumer Protection: Products so defective that they cause injuries often violate consumer protection laws.
- Medical Malpractice: If a doctor prescribes unsafe medications or uses a defective medical device, they may be sued in a medical malpractice suit.
- Trademark Law: Many dangerous consumer products are sold as knockoffs and violate trademark law as well as consumer protection laws.