Defective products cause a significant number of injuries and deaths every year. The most common types of product defects are: design defects, manufacturing defects, and warning defects.
Holding manufacturers accountable for the quality of their products
Each year thousands of products are recalled due to inferior performance, poor quality, faulty designs, and other defects. When manufacturers fail to take responsibility for products that do not perform as promised or advertised, there are multiple remedies under the law for consumers to hold manufacturers accountable.
PRODUCT DESIGN DEFECTS
Product manufacturers are not required to design products that are completely safe or incapable of causing injury. However, they are required to design products that are reasonably safe for the products' intended use. If a product's initial design makes it unreasonably dangerous, the manufacturer can potentially be held liable (financially responsible) for injuries that occur.
To determine whether a product design is defective, courts employ a "risk-utility" analysis. According to this standard, a product may be considered defective if the risks inherent in the product's design outweigh the product's potential utility or benefit.
For example, while regulations set minimum safety standards for cribs, defects have occurred in the design process, and have been the subject of a safety recall.
PRODUCT MANUFACTURING DEFECTS
Even if a product design is reasonably safe, defects can be created during the manufacturing or assembly process.
Manufacturers may try to cut costs by using low-quality materials to build their products. For example, defective tires have been recalled because the manufacturer used low-quality adhesives to assemble tire components, resulting in tires that could fall apart while driving. The components of a product can also be assembled incorrectly. The wrong components could be used. Or a component could be left out, attached incorrectly, or damaged during assembly.
Contamination is another potential manufacturing defect. Contaminated food recalls are often in the news, but contamination can also occur during the manufacturing of prescription drugs, medical devices, and other products.
PRODUCT PACKAGING, LABELING OR WARNING DEFECTS
Product manufacturers can also potentially be held liable for failure to warn of the potential dangers associated with using a product.
The type of warnings will vary depending on the product, its intended use, and the potential hazards associated with its intended use. Some examples are:
- The appropriate conditions in which to use the product (for example, indoors or outdoors).
- Potential hazards for particular age groups, such as toys with small parts that are dangerous for young children.
- Electrocution or other risks associated with using electronics or appliances.
- The potential for injury or illness associated with using household cleaners, pesticides, or other chemical products.
- The need for additional safety equipment when using the product.
If a manufacturer did not warn of a foreseeable danger at all, it can potentially be held liable for injuries that resulted from that "failure to warn." Manufacturers can also potentially be held liable for providing inadequate warnings, such as warning labels that are not easily understood, not visible enough, or not likely to be seen or read by a product user.