The Reinartz Law Firm, LLC.
What is product liability?
When a product causes injury to a consumer, the manufacturer or distributor of that product could be held liable if negligence under New York law can be proven. There are three categories under which products liability negligence can occur. If either a design defect, a known manufacturing flaw, or failure to properly warn the public occurred, there is likely a products liability case than can be brought against the manufacturer or seller.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a faulty product, the Reinartz Law Firm can help. We offer a free initial consultation of every case where we listen to your story, gather the details and advise on the best plan of action, depending on your situation.
Often, we can help you win a higher compensation amount than if you take what insurance companies initially offer. Our goal is to see that our clients’ financial strain is alleviated and that any costs incurred by your injuries are paid for by the manufacturer or seller of the faulty product. We believe in personal attention to detail, professional care for our clients and openly explaining every step of the legal process to our clients as questions arise.
We are an experienced New York products liability law firm, offering the best expertise of the biggest law giants with the personal touch of a smaller firm. We know that your injuries have upset your life, therefore we work with you to meet where you are if your injuries prevent you from coming to us. We also prioritize your medical care above all else and can help you file the claims and other paperwork with all insurance companies involved.
Types of products liability cases
There are three main categories that each products liability case will fall under. Sometimes the categories overlap if there is failure in more than one category, or parts of each category may be presented during the course of your liability claim.
If there is a problem at the design level of a product, which is the cause of your injury, we will bring your products liability claim under the design defect category. This means that the product, as designed, may not only be defective, but is dangerous.
Circumstances surrounding proven design defect cases have included medical devices or implants that harm the patient, ineffective safety protections on tools, child safety devices that do not work, or even pharmaceutical medications that harm the patients they are intended to help.
Basically, when a product is manufactured to the correct specifications, but those specifications render it dangerous, that product has a defect at the design level. Design defect product liability cases are typically brought against the company who designed and manufactured the faulty products. We will trace the product’s creation back to the designer, and show how the fault or failure of the design is the cause of your injuries. We will include the testimony of experts in related fields to verify that the failure begins at the design level and will use your medical records to show a direct link between that failure and your injuries.
If a product was successfully designed, but an error or failure occurred during manufacturing that in turn caused harm, that is a products liability case. The basis of this type of claim is that an identical product that was manufactured correctly did not have the same flaw or failure, proving that not all items of that product type are faulty. Instead, we trace back the product that caused your injury to a certain batch or lot and find either that all products from that batch are defective or tainted, or that yours was an anomaly, but that came off the production line with the flaws or failures that caused your injuries.
A tainted batch of products, food, or medications would have similar results from anyone who used or ingested the product with the same manufacturing defect. Oftentimes, we will gather multiple victims together to build a stronger case against the manufacturer to ensure the greatest amount of compensation for you and for the other victims.
If your product was a single anomaly, it can be more difficult to prove that the failure occurred at the manufacturing phase, but it is not impossible. It is important to note that any alterations to a product before injury can nullify any products liability claim. Even if the purpose of the alteration was to correct a defect, the fact that the consumer altered the product before injury means that the direct cause of injury cannot be assigned solely to the manufacturer.
In the state of New York, there is a comparative negligence law that can offset the amount of compensation damages awarded in a case where the consumer shares some of the responsibility for his or her injuries. The court must decide what percentage of blame is placed on the consumer versus the manufacturer. Once a dollar amount is decided for damages, the consumer will get that amount minus the percentage for which they were responsible. This applies to careless or risky behaviors in the use of a product as well as product alterations.
Failure to warn
In a failure to warn claim for product liability, the consumer must show that the manufacturer or seller had a responsibility to warn consumers about potential danger in the use or handling of their product. It is for this reason that so many products come with long lists of potential side effects, hazards or warnings. New York law requires the manufacturers and sellers of dangerous items to properly warn consumers that any part of their product could be hazardous to a consumer’s health or safety.
A manufacturer cannot assume that the general public will know of potential hazards if they are not warned first. The most well-known cases of proven failure to warn that have resulted in large compensation awards have occurred in cases like this. If use of a product could result in harm, even if it is the intended purpose of a product (like a cup of coffee being served hot, or a football helmet being used in tackling), the manufacturers must include a warning of the potential dangers.
As with the other categories of products liability cases, we must be able to prove a direct link between your injuries and the manufacturer or seller’s lack of warning. We must prove that your injuries could have been prevented if there had been sufficient warnings outlining the dangers or limitations of their product. Testimony from doctors and other medical professionals about the extent of your injuries, plus input from other victims of the same product will make your case that much stronger.
Negligence versus strict liability
A claim of negligence in a products liability case means that we can prove that the manufacturer, designer and/or seller were aware of the flaw or failure in their product, yet continued to produce and sell it anyway. Or, they could be negligent in their duty of care owed to the consumer. This type of negligence arises when there are not enough safety protocols or tests run before releasing a product for public use or consumption. While sometimes harder to confirm, there have been many successful cases where negligence was proven.
In a recent defective medical device case, it was proven that the manufacturer had knowledge of potential failures in its product design, yet those preliminary tests where the failure occurred were suppressed. By conducting a thorough investigation, there were employees discovered who were willing to testify that the company did, in fact, know about the potential hazards and still released the device for public use anyway.
This was a provable case of negligence against the company for knowingly releasing their defective product, despite the harm it could do to the public. However, the ability to prove negligence versus strict liability still remains a difficult hurdle, so the majority of products liability cases will be brought only under strict liability laws.
Strict liability simply means that the company has a duty to its consumers to produce and distribute safe products. When a faulty or defective product turns up, and proof of either design defect, manufacturing defect or failure to warn can be linked to injuries, the company is held liable for damages associated with the injuries.
While the law has undergone many changes about what is considered negligence versus strict liability based on new cases that are tried, both fall under the umbrella of products liability and can earn compensation for any injuries caused by those products.
Contact The Reinartz Law Firm
If you have questions about whether your injuries could be related to a products liability claim, contact the Reinartz Law Firm today. Our experienced attorneys can answer your questions and get you started on the road to recovering compensation for your medical bills, your lost wages, and any other costs related to your injury. Let us take the confusion out of the equation for you and help you recover the compensation you deserve.