When you go to the store, buy a product, and bring it home, you naturally assume that it’s safe to use.
That is a reasonable expectation, and the law will generally protect it.
Unfortunately, products aren’t always as safe as they should be. Whether due to a defect in design or manufacture, or perhaps a failure to properly instruct the consumer on safe usage, millions of people are injured or killed by consumer products and medications every year.
In fact, according to a recent study by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, in the year 2010 alone, more than 38.5 million Americans sought medical attention for an injury related to a consumer product.
When consumers are injured by products or medications, they have recourse under the law, which may include the right to financial compensation for their injuries and damages.
The term product liability refers to the area of law governing the rights of injured consumers, as well as the responsibilities of a product’s designers, manufacturers, and retailers.
Product liability cases are generally resolved pursuant to state law as opposed to federal law, though there are a few limited exceptions.
In this article, we provide a general overview of product liability law in New York.
Products Most Commonly Involved in New York Product Liability Cases
While an injury can happen with almost any type of product, some categories of consumer products are associated with an especially high risk or recurrence of injury or death. These include:
- Motor vehicles
- Car parts, tires, and other automotive accessories
- Child safety seats (car seats)
- Furniture (especially furniture for babies & children)
- Power saws & other power tools
- Pharmaceuticals (dangerous medications / drugs)
- Medical implants, accessories, and devices
The New York product liability lawyers at Lever & Ecker, PLLC have years of experience in handling injuries caused by a wide range of products beyond those listed above. Whatever category of product your injury might have involved, if you’ve been hurt while you using a consumer product or device, we encourage you to give our office a call.
The first and most common kind of product liability case involves a dangerous defect in a product’s construction, production, or manufacture.
Sometimes, a manufacturing defect may affect all the items produced by the manufacturer. Other times, the defect may affect only a portion of the total items produced (one lot or batch, for example). Indeed, sometimes a defect is unique to a single consumer’s item, even if all the other items produced at the same time were fine.
In New York, defective manufacturing claims are often based on a legal theory called strict liability, which means the manufacturer is liable for any injury caused by a defect in their product, even if the manufacturer wasn’t negligent.
Succeeding under a theory of strict liability is, in one sense, less difficult because it does not require the plaintiff to prove negligence by the manufacturer. Nevertheless, these cases can be challenging because they require proof that the defect caused the injury. Accordingly, manufacturers will often argue that the consumer caused their own injury by using the product incorrectly.
Another complicating factor is the fact that after an accident, the product itself may be damaged, making it hard to identify a pre-existing defect. (For example, discovering a defective car part can be difficult if the car was totaled in the crash.)
An experienced New York product liability lawyer can help you rigorously investigate your injury and mount a compelling case in the face of aggressive defense strategies by the manufacturer.
Sometimes, a product is manufactured precisely to specifications, but it is the design itself that is inherently defective — even if the construction is sound.
Design defects usually affect entire lines of products. In the classic example, an automotive manufacturer introduces a new model of car and is then forced to recall all the vehicles in that line a year later because the vehicle is prone to rollover, brake failure, or explosion.
Design defects can impact virtually any product. The principal issue in these cases is whether the design itself was the cause of the consumer’s injuries.
Failure to Instruct / Warn
Manufacturers have a duty to instruct consumers on the safe and proper usage of their products. Additionally, they have a duty to warn consumers about any known or reasonably foreseeable hazards associated with use of the product.
Even though manufacturers are well acquainted with this duty, failure to warn cases are common. Too many products make it to market without the manufacturer having taken adequate steps to ensure the consumer is fully aware of the product’s potential dangers and the ways to avoid them.
Other Product-Related Cases
So far, we have looked at the three most common types of product-related accident claims, each of them governed by New York product liability law.
In some cases, however, an injured consumer may also have a claim based on the negligence of another third party.
Misleading marketing by a third party, for example, may give rise to a legal claim by injured consumers, even if the manufacturer included all the appropriate labels, instructions, and warnings.
Similarly, if a retailer knowingly sells a defective product, or otherwise makes a product available to a consumer in a way that makes injury likely (mislabeling a dangerous product, for example), the victim may have a claim against the relevant retailer or distributor.
There have also been situations in which a business has purchased a product and then invited their own customers to use that product without properly warning or training the customer as to safe usage (for example, a vacation resort that provides a jet ski to its guest). In these cases, the business or resort may be liable on grounds of negligence.
Depending on the facts and circumstances, the victim may even have a claim against multiple parties or under more than one theory of law.
In all cases, it is best to discuss the specifics of your situation with an experienced New York product liability lawyer, who can help you understand which laws apply and which parties might be liable.
Talk to the New York Product Liability Attorneys at Lever & Ecker, PLLC.
If you have been injured while using a product or dangerous medication in New York, we want to help.
Defective product claims can be complex, so we encourage you to discuss your situation in detail with an experienced New York product liability lawyer as soon as possible. Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help.
Get started with a free, confidential consultation today. We will not charge a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. Call 914-288-9191 (in White Plains) or 212-766-5204 (in Manhattan) or simply contact us online right away.