In its simplest form, product liability is an area of the law that protects consumers if they have been hurt by an unsafe product. If they have been seriously injured or if a family member has been killed, they may have grounds for a lawsuit against the designer of the product, the maker of the product, the person who sold the product, the person who provided the product, or all of these people. A lawsuit may list all the people in the supply chain to make sure someone is held responsible for any negligence involved.
Many people feel product liability is a better kind of consumer protection, and to a certain extent it is, but after the fact of an incident. The law has changed from buyer beware to strict liability for manufacturing defects that produce unsafe items for consumption. In most jurisdictions, a plaintiff's case may be based on one or more theories dealing with product liability: breach of warranty, misrepresentation, strict tort liability and negligence.
Negligence means the failure to take ordinary and proper care; that someone who had a legal obligation to take care did not do what he or she should have done or knowingly did something he or she should not have done. For example, a company that knowingly makes gas barbeques with cheap gas line hoses that leak because they want to save money.
Strict tort liability extends the responsibility of the seller or maker of a product to everyone who may be hurt by it, even in the absence of fault. That means bystanders or people with no direct relation to a product may sue for damages if they are hurt. The plaintiff needs to prove the product was defective, that the defect made the item unreasonably dangerous, and that the defect proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Misrepresentation usually refers to ads and sales promotions that give consumers a false sense of security about the product’s safety. The material in question works to take people’s attention away from the produce hazards. A plaintiff may sue for a manufacturer intentionally hiding hazards or negligently misrepresenting them. To recover damages in an action like this, the plaintiff must prove they relied on representations made about the product.
Breach of warranty means the failure of the seller to live up to the terms of a promise, representation or claim about a type of product or product quality. The law presumes sellers offer warranties for goods sold and that the seller must stand behind the warranties.