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Product Liability: What Consumers Should Know

In the United States, there is a specific area of law designed to protect victims who suffer injury or harm as a result of faulty products. Product liability law exists to hold manufacturers responsible for creating and selling products that can cause injury to consumers, and to prevent companies from misleading the public about their products. It is important that consumers understand the basics of product liability law in the event that they experience harm from a defective product.

Under products liability law, manufacturers, distributers, suppliers, and sellers of products can be held liable for injuries caused by their products, if their products are defective in design or manufacture. In Maryland, product makers can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by their failure to warn consumers of their product’s risks, defective designs, and defects in the manufacturing process.  Strict liability means that a plaintiff does not need to prove any specific act of negligence on the part of the seller. Instead the focus is on whether the product was defective.

A product is determined to have a defective design when a dangerous condition is present that an ordinary consumer would not expect, or when its risks outweigh its benefits.  A manufacturing defect claim is asserted when an injury is caused by a problem with how the product was made. Essentially, the product that causes the injury is somehow different than all the identical products of its type being sold.

The Maryland Consumer Protection Act establishes minimum statewide standards of conduct in the marketplace to protect the consumer and restore public confidence in merchants. The Act provides a basis for a private cause of action for damages and often affords a remedy which might not otherwise be available in a tort or contract claim.

When reviewing a potential product liability claim, an attorney may look into whether or not the product in question contained a manufacturing defect. If there is evidence that there was an error during the manufacturing process—such as a faulty part or an inferior material used in the construction of the product—which led to injury, there may be reason to file a case against the responsible parties. However, an attorney must be able to show evidence that it was this defect that was the cause of the harm, and not other factors.

For example, if an individual takes an over the counter medication, and becomes ill as a result, he or she may have grounds to file a product liability claim.  If it was discovered that the medication was mixed with another medication during the packaging process, an attorney may claim that there was a manufacturing defect that caused the client’s injury.

Next, an attorney may examine whether the design of a product is fundamentally flawed or dangerous. When alleging that a product has a design defect, there must be evidence that the entire line of products is defective despite no error in manufacturing. To support a claim of this nature, a product liability or personal injury attorney must show that it was the defect in the original design that caused the injury.

Considering the example above, assume that there was not a packaging error that led to the client’s illness, but instead the ingredients used to formulate the medication caused the injury. These facts may give rise to a design defect claim.

The third common product liability claim is premised upon the producers’ having knowledge of a defect or potential risk associated with their product, and failing to warn the public accordingly. In these cases, the product is often not clearly defective, but requires a user to be cautious when using the product. When pursuing these claims, an attorney may argue that the product packaging did not provide sufficient warning or that the producers intentionally withheld information that would allow consumers to make an informed decision about using the product.

Again referencing the example above, imagine that the medication in question was causing many consumers to suffer illness. Upon further research, it is discovered that the manufacturer of the medication recorded similar side effects during clinical testing, yet failed to include this information when applying for approval. In cases such as these, an attorney may argue that the manufacturer was negligent in failing to provide accurate information and warning to users.

It is important that consumers understand product liability claims, and their rights. Having a basic knowledge of these claims will enable a consumer and their attorney to better present their case, in the unfortunate event that they suffer injury or harm from a defective product. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Peter Angelos specialize in personal injury and product liability law, and have represented thousands of victims and their families across the nation. For more information about product or pharmaceutical liability claims, contact the Law Offices of Peter Angelos.