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Who Is Liable For A Defective Product?

The consumer market is full of dangerous and defective products. The defective products that make it to the hands of the consumer lead to thousands of injuries every year in the United States. To protect the consumer and provide financial recovery for injuries sustained as a result of dangerous products, each state has product liability laws. The product liability laws in North Carolina differ from many other states. Most states use strict liability in product liability cases. Strict liability holds the manufacturer of a product automatically liable when their product is the direct result of an individual’s injuries. Strict liability means that there is no need to prove fault or prove that the manufacturer failed to act with reasonable care. North Carolina applies a negligence standard to product liability cases. Chapter 99B of the North Carolina General Statutes provides the framework for what the negligence standard is.

Knowing North Carolina law helps in determining whom to pursue action against in a product liability case. A plaintiff will want to include all parties that are involved in the chain of distribution of the defective product. Typically, the chain of distribution consists of the manufacturer of the product, the retailer, and the wholesaler or distributor. The manufacturer can range from a national corporation to a single individual. Plaintiffs should include all parties involved in the manufacture, design, and marketing of the product who could have a potential link to the product defect. The retailer should also be named as a possible liable party. A retailer may be found liable if they are guilty of having a defective product in their store that is sold to consumers. Additionally, the wholesaler could be found liable. The wholesaler who acts as a connection point between the manufacturer and retailer should also be named as a defendant as they may be responsible for distributing a defective product to retailers.

Individuals who sustain injuries in North Carolina have a higher burden of proof when claiming that product liability was the cause of their injuries. The plaintiff looking to recover damages in a product liability case has several different avenues to prove that a product was the direct cause of their injuries. The injured party can prove that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn consumers of the dangers associated with using their product. Manufacturers have a responsibility to warn consumers in a reasonable way if their product is dangerous. Warning in a reasonable way means that a warning should not be hidden in a dense owner’s manual. The warning of potential danger should be clear and evident to the consumer. Manufacturers cannot escape liability because of their own ignorance of the risks of their product. The victim can also assert that the product that directly caused the injury was designed in a manner that created a threat to the consumer. Products that are designed inadequately do not claim that an error took place in the manufacturing process. Design flaw claims seek to prove that a product is inherently dangerous; regardless of the fact that the injury-causing product was made perfectly according to the specifications of the manufacturer.  Finally, a plaintiff can attempt to prove that the manufacturer did not give adequate instructions for the product’s use. Failure to provide proper instructions is closely related to the inability to adequately warn. The manufacturer who knows that their product may cause burns if misused must provide instructions to assist consumers in the proper use of their product.

A plaintiff who argues that a defective product caused their injury because of negligence of the manufacturer has not done enough to be compensated. The injured party must demonstrate that the specific injury sustained was directly caused by the defective product itself. For example, an injured plaintiff may have been injured in a car accident while operating a car that tends to have defective brakes. If the defense can prove that the plaintiff was speeding at the time, it may be argued that the design of the brakes was not the direct issue that caused the accident. Plaintiffs are required to use the product in the manner that it was designed to be used. The standard for determining if a consumer was using the product for its intended use is to determine whether or not an ordinary consumer would use a product in that fashion.

The party who can prove that the defective product lead directly to their injuries will most likely be entitled to finical compensation. The damages that may be pursued and recovered in a product liability suit include economic damages, noneconomic damages, and in particular cases, punitive damages may even be recovered.  Economic losses recovered would be money or property that the plaintiff lost or missed out on as a direct result of the injuries sustained. Noneconomic losses recovered can include pain and suffering as well as a loss of consortium. Finally, punitive damages may be recovered in product liability cases. Punitive damages exceed economic damages and are intended to punish the defendant for their actions.

However, an induvial who is injured by a consumer product is not guaranteed compensation. All named defendants can assert a defense that potentially absolves them of any liability they may have. The most common defense is that the product design or defect was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. For this defense to be effective, the defendant must prove that the manner in which the injury occurred could not be realistically predicted. If the injury could not have been reasonably anticipated, then it would be the responsibility of the manufacturer to prevent the injury. The defendant could also argue that the plaintiff was culpable in the negligence. North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, which means if a plaintiff’s negligence was a factor in the injuries sustained the amount a defendant will have to compensate will be reduced or even eliminated. Finally, there may be an assumed risk that the plaintiff takes when using specific products. If a plaintiff is aware that using a product could lead to an injury or malfunction, the defendant could win the case under the defense “assumption of the risk.” A plaintiff who disregards known risks falls into the classification of assumed risk.

Consumers use defective products every day. When serious personal injury results from the defects of those products an individual in entitled to compensation under North Carolina law provided, the defective product was the actual cause of the injury.

If you or a loved one was injured using a defective product please call us.  You will speak with a personal injury lawyer who can best answer your questions and provide options.  There is no fee for the initial consultation.  

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