How Strict Liability Gives You an Advantage in a Product Defect Lawsuit

March 23, 2018

Product defect lawsuits can be somewhat mystifying for those who do not have prior experience with such litigation, in part because the standards for establishing liability may be unclear to the average person.  Product defect liability — in Pennsylvania and in other jurisdictions throughout the country — essentially gives the injured party (plaintiff) a right of action against the manufacturer to obtain compensation for the losses they sustained due to the particular defective product at-issue.

For example, if you were injured in a motor vehicle collision as the result of defective brakes, you would be entitled you to sue the manufacturer and recover damages pursuant to Pennsylvania product defect law.

Simple, right?  Not quite.

Product defect liability claims may be brought on the basis of strict liability or negligence, and there are multiple theories for liability, each of which plays out rather differently — for example, if you bring a claim against a manufacturer for a product where the defect is in the design of the product itself, you will have to make different arguments (i.e., that the design was not safe for its foreseeable uses) than if you bring a claim against a manufacturer for a product that was defectively produced.

Given the unique challenges presented by product defect litigation, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney who has specific experience with such claims.

In Pennsylvania, strict liability applies to product defect claims by default.  As a general rule, the application of strict liability favors the injured party, though it’s by no means an automatic win.  In fact, strict liability largely levels the playing field between plaintiffs and defendants in product defect cases.

What Strict Liability Means for Your Lawsuit

In most personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff must not only show that they have been injured due to the defendant’s conduct, but also that the defendant’s conduct was wrongful or negligent in some way.  For example, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident and you are suing the driver of the other vehicle, then you must show that the defendant-driver was operating their vehicle in a negligent or reckless manner, or that they intentionally caused the accident.  In other words, you must show that the defendant violated the standard of care in the circumstances.

By contrast, product defect claims apply strict liability by default.  In the product defect context, the strict liability doctrine only requires that the plaintiff prove that the defendant’s product was actually defective, and that the defect caused their injuries.  The plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant was negligent or reckless, or that the defendant acted intentionally to create the defect.

For example, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident where the brakes in your car failed due to a manufacturing defect, you may be able to recover damages pursuant to a product defect lawsuit.  Strict liability means that you do not have to show that the defendant was negligent in manufacturing the product — you would only have to show that there was actually a defect.

Strict liability — at its core — gives an advantage to the injured plaintiff, since the plaintiff does not have to establish a standard of care (and prove that the defendant violated that standard of care).  This shifts the burden to manufacturers.  Product manufacturers must ensure that their products are free of defects.  If there is a defect, and it causes injury, they will be found liable.  It does not matter that they made attempts to prevent a defect.  As such, manufacturers are incentivized to invest resources in product safety and inspection processes.

Manufacturers Still Have Many Defenses

Strict liability does give the injured plaintiff an advantage in a product defect lawsuit, but it’s worth noting that manufacturers have substantial resources at their disposal (such as industry experts with strong reputations).  Further, product manufacturers are often aggressive in fighting against product defect lawsuits, as they want to discourage others from suing them for similar claims.

In a product defect lawsuit, manufacturers may avoid liability by asserting a number of different defenses, including:

  • That there is no defect.
  • That the plaintiff’s use of the product was not foreseeable.
  • That the plaintiff modified the product in an unauthorized manner.
  • That the defect did not actually cause the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • And more.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Allentown Product Defect Lawyer

If you have suffered an injury due to a product defect, Pennsylvania product liability laws may give you a right of action to recover damages for your various injuries.  Product defect claims may proceed on the basis of a number of different theories, from strict liability to negligence to breach of warranty.  The dynamic, multi-faceted nature of product defect litigation — in combination with the challenge of litigating claims against corporate defendants — demands the skill-set of an experienced team of attorneys that have “seen it all,” so to speak.

Here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC, our attorneys have 33 years of experience representing the interests of injury victims, including those involved in product defect litigation.  We prepare for trial litigation from the very beginning of the client engagement process.  As such, we are well-positioned to negotiate for a favorable resolution to your claims — and in the event that negotiations break down, we can more effectively advocate on your behalf at trial.

Call (888) 777-7098 to speak with an experienced Allentown product defect lawyer at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC, today.  Initial consultation is free.  During this consultation, we will evaluate your case and help you understand the roadmap to recovery.