Product Liability & Defective Products

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

As consumers, we make purchases with the reasonable expectation that the products we buy will enhance our lives, and certainly not harm us in any way when we use them properly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Every year thousands of people are seriously injured or killed in accidents caused by defective products. These harms can have a dramatic and sometimes life changing impact for victims and for those who are close to them. However, compensation and legal protection is available.


New York law requires that manufacturers and sellers of products ensure that their products are not in any way defective or dangerous to users. Companies must provide proper warning if any part of their product is unsafe or if using the product in a certain way could be hazardous to the user’s safety or health. Many of the injuries or deaths that are the result of defective products could have been avoided if manufacturers designed better products and manufactures and sellers of those products followed the law and properly warned users of product dangers.

When a product is made available for public consumption, the designer, manufacturer, supplier, and retailer have a legal responsibility to test the product and make sure it’s free of any defects that may cause harm, injury, or death to the consumer. Unfortunately, however, this does not always occur or is done improperly. If a person is seriously injured or killed by a defective product, the designer, manufacturer, supplier, and/or retailer may be held liable for damages under state and federal defective products liability laws.

Any defective product has the potential to injure, harm, or kill a person. Some of the most common products that may be defectively designed or produced include:


  • · Automobiles, SUVs, and motorcycles
  • · Commercial and private airplanes and helicopters
  • · Childcare products, walkers, cribs, safety gates and toys
  • · Construction equipment and cranes
  • · Medical devices, surgical implants and prosthetics
  • · Machinery and elevators
  • · Power tools and hand tools
  • · Hazardous chemicals
  • · Food products
  • · Electrical equipment (heaters, fireplaces, stoves, etc.)
  • · Boats
  • · Electronics
  • · Farm and garden equipment
  • · Cleaning products
  • · Cosmetics



A products liability case dealing with negligence focuses on the behavior of the manufacturer and its scope of duty of care. Usually, if a lawsuit alleges product liability negligence, there are four elements that the plaintiff needs to prove in order to be successful. There must be a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. This duty of care needs to have been breached by the defendant, which has resulted in injury to the plaintiff. Finally, there must be a causal link between the harm and the defendant’s breach of duty. The negligence can apply to anything relating to the product before it comes to market. However, most product liability cases involve the standard of “strict liability.”

Strict Liability

Under strict liability, the manufacturer is liable if the product is defective, even if the manufacturer was not negligent in making that product defective. However, rather than focus on the behavior of the manufacturer, as in negligence, strict liability claims focus on the product itself. The basic premise of the strict product liability doctrine is that a manufacturer or distributor of a product is responsible for injuries caused by defects in that product. Courts have held that there are three separate types of defects: design defects, manufacturing defects, or defects in warnings or instructions.

If an injured victim can establish that such a defect was a proximate cause of the injury suffered, then the manufacturer or distributor will be held liable to compensate the victim for his or her damages.

In order to recover for an injury caused by a defective product, the victim must have been using the product for its intended use. In other words, if the product is being used in a manner contrary to the manufacturer’s warnings and instructions when the injury occurs, then the manufacturer will have a defense to a strict product liability claim.  However, the only element that must be proven in relation to strict product liability is that the product had a defect that caused injury to the plaintiff. There is no requirement for any element of negligence, nor is there any need to prove fault.


If you have been injured from what you believe to be an unsafe or dangerous product, you should seek the advice of an experienced product liability attorney to ensure your legal rights are protected. Depending on the facts of your case, either the manufacturer or the distributor may be held liable.

Practice Areas: 

Accidents & Injuries