Law Offices of Paul W. Ralph | Personal Injury Attorney in Orange, CA |

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Products Liability Cases

It is an all too common experience for consumers to be injured by the products they buy. When those injuries are caused by a defective product, as opposed to product misuse, the injured party has rights against those companies placing the product in the stream of commerce. It is estimated that defective products result in injuries, deaths and property damage of about 1 trillion dollars each year in this country. To say the least, this is a significant problem, and consumers need to be aware of their rights when they are victimized.

Under California law, a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer may be held liable for a dangerous or defective product that causes injury to a consumer. This is what is commonly known as “products liability”, and if you have been injured by a consumer product in Orange County you should find out if you have a right to compensation for injuries and damages you sustained.

Strict Products Liability Law

Among the legal theories available to injured consumers is the doctrine of strict liability. Under California law, a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being used in a reasonably foreseeable way. Strict liability may be found against a company when at least one of three defects is present: manufacturing defects (where the product is not made as intended), design defects (where the design itself is the cause of injury), and warning defects (i.e., where there is an inadequate or complete failure to warn of a potential danger). This theory of liability is often the easiest to prove in court and is the preferred claim in most cases. The defect in the product itself establishes the case for the injured party with not much room for the defense to argue. Even where the product is not used in a particularly safe way by the consumer a valid case may be established, so long as the use could be anticipated.

In fact, the law requires a manufacturer to foresee some degree of misuse and abuse of his product, and they must take reasonable precautions to minimize the harm that may result from that misuse and abuse by the consumer. Manufacturers and sellers of defective products must prove that the consumer’s misuse or abuse of a product was “highly extraordinary” before they may be able to avoid responsibility for the injuries and damages a product causes.

Sometimes the “defect” in the product is in the failure of the manufacturer and/or the seller to warn of a danger. Warnings must sufficiently alert the user to the possibility of danger or the manufacturer can be held liable for a consumer’s injuries. This duty to warn also includes an obligation to provide adequate instructions that are essential to the assembly and safe use of the product. When the risk of injury is unavoidable (such as where a drug cannot be made without certain potential side effects), the warning must be enough to enable the potential user to make an informed choice whether to use the product or not.

Negligence Theory of Products Liability

Another legal theory available to injured consumers in California is the negligence theory of liability. Negligence and strict liability theories are distinct from one another under California law. The negligence theory focuses on whether the manufacturer followed the acceptable standard of care in the industry with regard to design, manufacture and providing warnings. Under a negligence theory, a manufacturer who fails to exercise reasonable care in the manufacture of a product which, unless carefully made, he should recognize as involving an unreasonable risk of causing physical harm to those who use it for a purpose for which the manufacturer should expect it to be used and to those whom he should expect to be endangered by its probable use, may be held liable. As far as warnings are concerned, the manufacturer may be held liable for injuries if they fail to warn of what a reasonably prudent manufacturer would have known and warned about. In contrast, under the strict liability theory, the injured party has to prove only that the defendant did not adequately warn of a particular risk that was known or knowable in light of the generally recognized scientific and medical knowledge available at the time the product was sold.

In most cases, the injured party has these two theories and several others at their disposal in order to prove their case. Unlike other areas of law, the theories available to consumers injured by defective products tend to favor the victims. If you believe you have been a victim, consulting an attorney is the best way to find out if you are entitled to compensation.

Products Liability Attorney in Orange

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed by what you believe was a dangerous product, contacting an Orange County products liability attorney may be the best first step toward recovering compensation for the injuries and damages suffered. Mr. Ralph has nearly 30 years of experience at handling products cases, and has successfully prosecuted cases involving a variety of products, from unsafe shoes to exploding pressure cookers. He is available for a free product liability consultation.