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Standard Elements of a Product Liability Case

The classic product liability case arises out of a defect in the product design or manufacturing process that makes a product unsafe to use. A successful product liability claim traditionally involves four basic allegations:

  1. The manufacturer sold the product in the course of its business.
  2. The product was sold in a defective condition that was unreasonably dangerous when the product was put to a reasonably anticipated use.
  3. The defective product was used in a manner reasonably anticipated.
  4. The consumer was damaged as a direct result of the defective condition that existed when the product was sold.

Missouri and many other states have adopted an "unreasonably dangerous" test in which a consumer must show two things:

  • A reasonable, safer, alternative design was available at the time of the defective product's sale.
  • The manufacturer's omission of the safer alternative rendered the product "not reasonably safe."

The application of this test varies in different courts and hinges widely on the facts of a particular case. Additional elements may also be present in product liability claims that involve failure to warn allegations, prescription drugs, foreign products and products that were defective as a result of a third party's actions.

Failure to Warn Product Liability Cases

Product liability cases often involve allegations that a manufacturer failed to warn a consumer of the dangerousness of a product. Failure to warn allegations often arise in cases involving dangerous pharmaceuticals and products that contain harmful materials such as asbestos. Failure to warn cases use the premise that a manufacturer has a duty to ensure that it adequately warns individuals of the harms that its products may cause.

There are five basic elements of a product liability claim based on a failure to warn theory:

  1. The manufacturer sold the product in the course of its business.
  2. The defective product was unreasonably dangerous when put to a reasonably anticipated use without knowledge of its characteristics.
  3. The manufacturer did not give adequate warning of the danger.
  4. Allegedly defective product was used in a manner reasonably anticipated.
  5. The consumer was damaged as a direct result of the product being sold without an adequate warning.

The duty of a manufacturer to warn a client of the dangers of a product can vary depending on the type of product in question. For example, prescription pharmaceuticals are considered "unavoidably unsafe products" under Missouri law and therefore drugmakers are typically liable only for failing to warn of a drug's dangerous propensities of which a drugmaker either knew or should have known.

Individual state laws can also modify the responsibility of companies. For example, Kansas' Product Liability Act modifies the traditional rule that manufacturers do not need to warn consumers about obvious dangers associated with products. The pivotal question in a Kansas case is therefore not whether the consumer did know about the dangers associated with a product, but whether a reasonable consumer should have known about the danger.

The duty of whom to warn may also vary depending on the type of product in question. For example, medical device manufacturers often only have to warn physicians of the potential hazards of a device. Therefore, a patient often cannot use a failure to warn theory to bring a case when a manufacturer adequately warned a physician, but the physician failed to read the manufacturer's literature that contained the warnings.

The application of a particular theory of product liability law is highly dependent on the facts of a person's case. If you have questions about product liability law and how it would apply to your injury, speak with a personal injury attorney from Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, P.C., by calling us at 888-353-0491 or contacting us online.

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http://www.hfmlegal.org We've been handling major personal injury cases since 1985, including major catastrophic injuries, toxic tort injuries, including cancers, accidents, and slip and falls that have resulted in extreme injuries. (888) 353-0491

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