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What Is the Difference Between Product Liability and Strict Liability?

Posted on August 15, 2019 in Personal Injury,Product Liability

Defective products should never make it into consumers’ hands. When product manufacturers negligently or intentionally ignore defects, consumers can suffer injuries such as burns, broken bones, electrocution, lacerations, and wrongful death. Every year, manufacturers and distributors sell defective toys, appliances, vehicles and other items to the public. These hazardous items could cause catastrophic injuries, giving victims the right to file civil lawsuits in pursuit of monetary damages. The set of rules governing defective merchandise is product liability law.

Strict Liability Laws and Product Defects

The rules of strict liability state that someone will be strictly liable – liable without a victim having to prove negligence or fault – for an accident in certain circumstances. Strict liability laws typically apply to cases involving pet owners or unreasonably dangerous activities. They can also apply to defective product lawsuits. In these cases, a courtroom may assign liability even if the plaintiff has no proof of the defendant’s negligence or intent to harm. The defendant may still be accountable for damages based on the rules of strict liability.

Strict product liability laws state that a manufacturer or distributor of a defective product will owe an injured person compensation even if the defendant took reasonable steps to prevent the defect. In strict product liability cases, it will not matter whether the defendant was negligent. The plaintiff could still receive financial compensation for damages even without proof of the defendant’s fault. Strict product liability cases have different burdens of proof than standard civil claims.

Elements of Proof in a Strict Product Liability Claim

Rather than duty, breach of duty and causation, strict product liability lawsuits have unique proof requirements. If the plaintiff’s attorney can prove the item contained a manufacturing defect and caused the injury, this will typically be enough to win financial compensation. Strict product liability claims require the establishment of one of three types of defects.

  1. A product with a defective design could cause injuries. A manufacturing plant may create the item according to design specifications, yet it could still inflict injury due to a dangerous design. An example of a design defect is a coffee cup that heats up too much, causing burns.
  2. A manufacturing defect is an error or mistake that alters the product from its original design in a way that causes injuries. Manufacturing defects can occur at any time, from the design stage to product distribution. An example is a coffee cup that causes burns due to a manufacturing error that created thinner cups than intended.
  3. Marketing flaws refer to lapses, mistakes or lack of proper warnings in an item’s marketing. A manufacturer must post instructions or safety warnings somewhere on the item if the product poses non-obvious risks to consumers. An example of a marketing defect is a cup not meant for hot liquids, without a warning not to use it for this purpose.

If a plaintiff’s lawyer can demonstrate the item in question contained one of these defects, the rules of product liability will apply to the case. It will not be necessary for the plaintiff’s lawyer to prove the manufacturing company was guilty of negligence or carelessness. It will only be necessary to establish that the plaintiff used the item as the manufacturer intended, the item contained a defect and the item caused specific damages.

Other Types of Product Claims

Some product liability cases do not involve the doctrine of strict liability. Instead, the plaintiff’s attorney may have to base the claim on negligence, breach of warranty or misrepresentation of facts. A product liability claim based on one of these grounds will typically require evidence of the defendant’s fault, negligence or intent to harm. A product liability attorney can help a victim prove this type of case based on the defendant’s actions, misconduct or a history of defective products. All types of product liability lawsuits could result in financial compensation for injured consumers in Florida if the attorney succeeds in fulfilling the burden of proof.