what is a product liability lawsuit

We rely on manufacturers and product developers to provide us with safe products. They must also warn us of potential hazards. Even with warnings and standards in place to create safe products, products can be defective and dangerous. 

An injury from a dangerous or defective product can be life-altering. It can impair one’s ability to work and physically move about freely. It can also cause financial stress with overwhelming medical and treatment bills.

The Cottrell Law Office understands that unexpected injury or loss can cause serious financial and emotional hardship. Wesley Cottrell can help you understand the type of relief you are entitled to and discuss your legal options. He will fight to protect your rights and hold manufacturers and other parties involved accountable for the harm caused by dangerous products.

What Is a Product Liability Lawsuit?

A product liability claim is a civil lawsuit to hold manufacturers, designers, distributors, and/or retailers liable for personal injuries suffered from using a dangerous or defective product. When a dangerous or defective product causes death or injury, the victim or their survivors may seek damages in court from responsible parties. 

Elements of Product Liability Claim

Missouri state law governs product liability claims. There are several common categories of product liability cases: defective design, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, and marketing defect. Claims can be based on theories of strict liability and negligence. 

Strict Liability

Under the theory of strict liability, a product manufacturer, retailer, distributor, or other party in the distribution chain can be responsible for a consumer’s injuries regardless of whether or not there was negligence. 

Strict liability applies where a product is defective or dangerous due to the product’s underlying design, the product’s manufacturing, or if it is not marketed properly to consumers or doesn’t contain adequate warnings of any potential risks. The focus is on the defective product, and the defendant may be liable for damages even if they were not negligent.

To win a defective product lawsuit under strict liability, the elements the injured consumer must prove include that:

  • The defendant sold the product in the course of their business;
  • The product was defective at the time of sale or distribution;
  • The defect was the direct and main cause of the injury; and
  • The consumer was using the product as it was intended to be used.

If a strict liability theory is unsuccessful, you may be able to move forward with a theory of negligence.


With a claim of negligence, the focus is on the conduct of the manufacturer or designer. The manufacturer, designer, or retailer has a duty to make and sell products free of dangerous defects or hidden risks. The victim must prove that the defendant manufacturer knew or should have reasonably known that the product was defective or dangerous. 

An experienced personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case and help determine the best theory to use in litigation. 

Defective Product Claims Examples

Any number of consumer products could result in a product liability claim. Common examples include:

  • Auto defects—defective auto parts like airbags, wheels, transmissions, seat belt failures, faulty brakes, and engine fires can result in serious motor vehicle accidents and multiple victims who may be eligible for damages;
  • Children’s products—unsafe or hazardous toys, clothing with dangerous items attached (like drawstrings), strollers, cradles, cribs, booster seats, bathtub seats, playground equipment, and bottles can all be susceptible to product defects, manufacturing or design flaws, or lack of warnings and can seriously injure children;
  • Household tools—lawnmowers, electric equipment, drills, and saws can lead to life-threatening injuries if they are defective;
  • Medical devices—defective medical devices like hip replacements, faulty pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, or port catheters can cause severe injuries;
  • Medications—improperly labeled or unlabeled medications can have disastrous impacts on those taking them. 

These are only a few examples of products that could be defective or dangerous, leading to horrible injuries. If there is another product you believe was defective or dangerous that caused your injury, speak with an attorney to determine if you have a viable product liability case.

The Cottrell Law Office Is Here to Help

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury from using a defective or dangerous product, contact The Cottrell Law Office. Wesley Cottrell has over 32 years of experience fighting for the rights of personal injury victims in Missouri and Arkansas. As a solo practitioner, Wesley can provide each client with individualized attention and dedication. There is no such thing as a “more important” case or a case that is “too small.”

He wants to help you get the compensation you deserve and reduce the stress and overwhelm that occurs when you experience a life-changing injury. Wesley will listen to the specifics of your case and tailor innovative and cost-effective strategies to achieve that goal. Contact The Cottrell Law Office today to learn how Wesley can help you with your product liability case.  

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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