The manufacturer of a product is typically responsible for any defects in its products that injure consumers. That does not mean that manufacturers must guarantee their products are 100% safe because some products are inherently dangerous. However, if there was a safer design available, manufacturers should consider that design, especially if they know their design has caused injuries. Manufacturers are also required to warn consumers about dangers that are known but cannot be avoided, such as with power tools or lawn mowers. Let our personal injury attorney explain the manufacturer’s duty to warn.
Manufacturers are required to give appropriate instructions
Under Arkansas law, for example, manufacturers are required to include “reasonable and adequate” instructions along with their products when they are sold. Determining what is “reasonable and adequate” depends on the specific details of the product and the particular dangers it poses. Some of the important factors include what the product is, what are the chances that a consumer might misuse the product and whether there are any obvious or hidden dangers contained in the product.
What type of instruction is required?
It is generally understood that, in order to safely use or operate certain products, you need to know how to use it and how to use it safely. That means that some form of instructional materials should be included with most products. The reality is a consumer that does not know how a product works will be more likely to use it in a way in which it was not meant to be used. That could result in unintended injury.
Nevertheless, instructions are generally only required for the foreseeable use of the product. In other words, even if a product could be used in some unintended way, the manufacturer is not required to provide instructions for every possible use under the sun. If you have concerns about whether a product that caused you injury provided sufficient instructions, speak to our personal injury attorney.
An example of an instruction required for safe use
While a circular saw is obviously a dangerous product, intended to cut objects. Consequently, it is not necessary to provide a warning that the blade is dangerous, as that is an obvious danger. However, it may not be as obvious where the consumer should hold the blade when it is being used, which types of materials are intended to be cut using that particular type of saw, or where the saw can be safely used for cutting. Those types of instructions are necessary for the safe use of the saw, as it was intended to be used.
Warning requirements for dangerous products
In addition to the duty to provide instructions, warnings may also be required. In Arkansas, a manufacturer generally has a duty to warn of dangers that may be inherent in a product. If a necessary warning is not provided, and a consumer is injured as a result, then the manufacturer may be held liable for the consumer’s injuries.
Essentially, a manufacturer is required to warn consumers about foreseeable dangers in the use of their product. That does not include providing warnings for dangers that are “open” or “obvious.” For example, a knife manufacturer need not warn you that stabbing yourself with a knife will cause injury.
Consumers who may be uniquely sensitive to a particular danger
Another exception to the duty to warn relates to consumers who may be uniquely sensitive to a particular danger. For example, in one Arkansas case, it was determined that an insecticide manufacturer was not required to warn consumers about a possible allergic reaction. That type of warning would only apply to people with a specific allergy sensitivity, so that specific warning was not required. Even if you suspect an injury you suffered may have been rare or unexpected, you should still speak to a personal injury attorney about your situation to be sure you do not have a claim.
Warning for predicted misuse of a product
In some situations, a manufacturer can reasonably predict that consumers will misuse their products in a certain way. In that case, the manufacturer may be required to warn against that predictable misuse. For example, a portable barbecue grill may be able to fit inside your home, but that does not mean it is safe to use it inside the home. For this reason, portable grill manufacturers typically include a warning that it is unsafe to use the grill indoors.
Different requirements in pharmaceutical cases
Cases involving pharmaceuticals may have different duties because the doctors who prescribe the medication are most often in a better position to warn their patients (the consumers) of any dangers associated with using the drug. For that reason, in some state’s the burden of warning patients of the dangers related to pharmaceutical use is placed on the physicians as opposed to the manufacturers.
If you have questions regarding products liability 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.
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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