What is Product Liability?

“Product liability” refers to the legal liability of any or all parties along the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product. This includes the manufacturer of component parts, an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner. Products liability claims can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness.  

In order to prevail on a product liability claim, the product complained of must be shown to be defective. There are three types of product defects that incur liability to manufacturers and suppliers: design defects, manufacturing defects, and defects in marketing. Design defects are inherent; they exist before the product is manufactured. While the item might serve its intended use, it can be unreasonably dangerous to use due to a design flaw. Manufacturing defects occur during the construction or production of the item. Only a few out of many products of the same type are flawed in this case. Defects in marketing deal with improper instructions and failures to warn consumers of latent or hidden dangers in the product.

Our firm has a long history of litigating product liability claims in both state and federal court. For example, our firm obtained a $33.9 million settlement, believed to be largest product liability lawsuit settlement in New Jersey history, after a man’s torso was crushed due to a defective machine he was operating in the workplace. 

What is Strict Product Liability?

Under the concept of strict liability, there is no requirement that an injured person prove negligence. Negligence requires a showing that the wrongdoer failed to use reasonable care, which caused an accident, resulting in injuries or damages. In a strict liability claim under the New Jersey Product Liability Act, an injured person must only show that the product was not reasonably safe or fit for its intended purpose. That may be shown in three ways:

  • The product contained a manufacturing defect; 
  • The product failed to contain adequate warnings or instructions (the so-called “failure to warn” claim); or 
  • The product was defectively designed.

To prevail on a claim alleging defective manufacture of a product, the plaintiff must only prove that the product “deviated from the design specifications of the manufacturer” or from what are considered identical units produced according to the same standards or specifications. To win on the failure-to-warn claim, an injured person must demonstrate that the product did not include warnings or instructions that “a reasonably prudent person…would have provided in the same or similar circumstances.” To succeed with a defective design claim, an injured person must show that the risks of the product as designed outweighed its usefulness or that the product could have been designed in a way that minimized or eliminated the risk of harm.

Our firm has extensive experience handling complex and difficult product liability claims.  In 2013, our firm obtained an $11 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon for a woman who suffered from injuries related to pelvic mesh.  It was the first pelvic mesh jury verdict against those companies in the country. 

What is a Product Liability Claim?

The first type of product liability claim is a lawsuit that is based on the defective design of a product. A civil action based on defective design alleges that the product is inherently dangerous based on its design alone rather than an error made during the manufacture of the product. A fairly common example of a design defect is a sport utility vehicle (SUV) that is prone to rolling over due to a high center of gravity. 

Manufacturing defects are the most common cause of product liability claims. A product liability lawsuit based on a manufacturing defect alleges that the original design of the product is completely safe but that something happened during the manufacturing process to make the product unsafe. A manufacturing defect exists if the product does not conform to its intended design and fails to perform safely as the intended design would have performed. Common examples include an error in manufacturing that results in an automobile seatbelt missing a critical component that allows the seatbelt to “lock” into place or a batch of pharmaceutical medication that becomes contaminated.  

In a product liability claim that focuses on a warning or labeling defect, the plaintiff alleges that the product had some inherent danger, such as choking hazards, flammability, or the ability to cause injury. The manufacturer of those products has a legal duty to adequately warn of this danger but failed to do so. This is very common with prescription medications. Patients may take a certain medication only to experience adverse side effects that the pharmaceutical company did not disclose.

Regardless of the type of product liability claim, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience handling these cases.  Our firm was lead counsel involving claims against Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. and Forest Laboratories Inc. for design defect and failure to warn claims involving a prescription drug, which eventually resulted in a $300 million settlement for injured persons across the country.  

Is Product Liability a Tort?

Yes, product liability is a field of tort law which concerns the responsibility of the manufacturer or vendor of a product to ensure that products are safe and do not cause injury. Products subjected to liability include all consumer goods, medical devices, commercial/personal vehicles, aircraft and consumable goods such as food and prescription drugs.  

We have the background, experience, and resolve to achieve the best results that our clients deserve.  In one case, we obtained a $4.7 million settlement for our client who was severely burned because a light was not appropriate for sale to a commercial automotive repair shop. The defective product ignited gasoline, which caused extensive burns to our client.  

Have a Product Liability Claim? Contact Mazie Slater

Product liability claims are quite complex and require proof that the product was defective and you sustained an injury during the ordinary course of using the product. To prove your claim, you can rely on an experienced product liability lawyer at Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman, LLC. Check out our extensive history of success in representing injured persons in complex product liability cases.  

We will thoroughly examine your situation and inform you of your rights. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation, so there is no risk in contacting our firm. You only pay us if we recover compensation for your claim.