A family in a Texas town lost a child following an accident caused by an allegedly defective tire. They are seeking more than $1 million in the product liability lawsuit they filed against Michelin North America, Inc. and others. Product liability claims can be complicated and difficult to prove. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of a suspected defective product, contact our Joplin personal injury attorney.
Serious accident allegedly caused by defective tire
In June of this year, Rosa Molina and her minor child were involved in a serious accident when one the tires on the vehicle she was driving failed, causing Molina to lose control of the vehicle. They were then struck by an 18-wheeler. The allegedly defective tire was purchased two weeks before the accident at Macias Tire Services.
According to the lawsuit, the tire was manufactured by Michelin and sold by Macias Tire Services. The child’s parents argue that these two companies failed to provide a proper warning that the tire’s tread would likely separate or fail unexpectedly. They also sued the employer of the 18-wheeler driver for negligently entrusting the vehicle to him. The lawsuit is still pending.
What are product liability claims?
When a claim is made to hold a manufacturer or seller of a product liable for making defective products available to consumers, that type of legal claim is referred to as a product liability claim. The theory is that the seller or manufacturer of the product is responsible for any injuries it causes to consumers, particularly when there are no appropriate warnings about known dangers associated with the product.
What does the law require with regard to consumer products
Basically, the law requires consumer products to meet the ordinary expectations of a reasonable consumer. Products that have unexpected defects or dangerous features, then the product does not meet those ordinary expectations.
Product liability claims are based on state law because there is no federal law governing these types of claims. The legal theories that typically apply include negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty.
Who is usually held responsible for defective products?
Historically, the only person who could bring a product liability claim was the person who actually purchased the product. However, that is no longer the case. Instead, the test is whether the person bringing the claim or on whose behalf the claim is brought must have been someone who foreseeably could have been injured by that particular defective product. The product must have been purchased by someone, though.
Some examples of party’s who may be liable include:
- product manufacturer;
- manufacturer of component parts;
- the party that assembles or installs the product;
- wholesaler; and
- a retail store that sold to the consumer
This list does not include someone who sells a product at a garage sale, for instance.
What types of product defects are actionable?
There are certain elements that must be established in order to prove a product liability claim: the product was defective in some way, that defect made the product unreasonably dangerous, and someone was injured as a result. There are basically three types of defects that result in the liability of a manufacturer or supplier: design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects.
Three categories of defects
Design defects are flaws in a product that exist as a result of how the product was designed. This defect is present before the product is actually manufactured or made. In other words, the product as designed was inherently unsafe. On the other hand, manufacturing defects take place when the product is being manufactured or assembled. Marketing defects are not related to the physical product, but instead to the method used in marketing the product, such as improper labeling, inadequate instructions on its use and inadequate warnings regarding the safe use of the product.
The doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur“
There is a legal doctrine that relates to product liability claims known as “res ipsa loquitur,” which is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” Under this doctrine, depending on the type of defect involved, it is accepted that the defect would not have existed unless someone was negligent. Put another way, only negligence would have caused that type of defect. In those cases, the injured party is not required to prove how the defendant was negligent. The burden of proof is on the defendant to show they were not negligent.
Strict liability theory in product liability cases
Strict liability also means that the injured party does not need to prove negligence, but instead only that the product was defective. This is more of a “no-fault” theory of liability that applies in very specific cases. If you have questions regarding defective products or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.