Most of us use and rely on products hundreds of times each day, from the coffee pots we switch on in the morning to the vehicles we drive to work and the equipment we use when we arrive. Some products are used casually, while others, such as medical devices, are critical to our welfare.
Any type of product can be dangerous if it’s poorly designed or manufactured. Anything from a child’s toy with small detachable parts to a kitchen appliance, tool, motor vehicle, or pacemaker can be harmful or fatal. Even well-planned and constructed products can be dangerous if the manufacturer fails to provide appropriate instructions or adequate warnings regarding safe usage.
Fortunately, Ohio law protects consumers by holding manufacturers responsible for those defects and oversights.
While Ohio law does not go as far as some other states in holding manufacturers and others in the supply chain strictly liable, some defective product claims may be established without a finding that the manufacturer was in any way negligent.
Defective Product Liability
A product manufacturer may be held liable for damage caused by the defective product under four separate circumstances:
Defective Manufacture or Construction
Defective manufacture or construction occurs when the product is constructed or assembled in a manner that does not conform to specifications, performance standards, the prescribed formula, or the standard manufacture of identical products. For example, if a manufacturer switched to a weaker material to save costs, and as a result, the product broke and caused an injury, the manufacturer could be held responsible for that injury.
It is important to note that negligence is not required to establish liability in this situation. The manufacturer can be held legally responsible for resulting damages even if it exercised all possible care in the manufacture and construction of the product.
A product is considered defective in design or formulation is defective in design or formulation if, when it leaves the manufacturer’s control, the foreseeable risks associated with its design or formulation exceed the benefits.
This is less clear-cut than the test for defective manufacture and involves weighing factors such as the seriousness of the risk, the likelihood that users would recognize the risks, any safety benefits associated with the design, and the feasibility of employing a safer design or formulation.
Failure to Warn or Provide Adequate Instruction
A product that is not defective in design or manufacture may nonetheless be deemed a defective product and subject the manufacturer to liability if the manufacturer knows or reasonably should know of risks that are not common knowledge but fails to warn consumers of those risks.
Failure to Conform to Representations
A product may be deemed defective if the product when it leaves the manufacturer’s control, fails to conform to a representation made by the manufacturer. For example, if a manufacturer represented a glass baking dish to be safe for use at temperatures of up to 500 degrees, but the dish actually exploded during use at 475 degrees, the manufacturer could be held responsible for injury and other damages caused by the explosion—even if the manufacturer was not negligent in making the representation or in the manufacture or design of the product.
Damages in Defective Product Cases
As with other types of personal injury and wrongful death cases, damages in a defective product case will vary depending on the facts of the case, the economic and non-economic losses suffered by the plaintiff, and other factors. However, some common damages awarded in this type of case include:
- Compensation for medical expenses, past and anticipated
- Compensation for any property damage or destruction
- Compensation for pain and suffering and other intangible losses
- Compensation for lost income and/or lost earning capacity
If you’ve been injured by a defective product, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer about the damages you may be entitled to.