Americans are consumers. We make purchases at grocery stores, department stores, hardware stores - buying goods is a near daily event for most people. And when people buy goods at a store, they expect that those goods will be safe to use as intended. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. Sometimes the goods people purchase can lead to injuries - or even death - when they are used. There are a number of reasons why these types of tragedies occur, and in many cases liability can go back to the company that sold the goods, manufactured the goods, or designed the goods - or all of them.
The area of law that deals with who or what is held responsible when an individual is injured by consumer goods is known as "products liability" law. But, most people are familiar with this area of the law not because they themselves have been injured by a product, but because a product they have purchased has become subject to a mechanism intended to prevent injuries: a product recall. Everyone has seen news reports from time to time that alert consumers to items that may present the risk of injury due to a previously unforeseen danger - listeria, airbags, and drop-side cribs, for example. The most common recalls that most people are familiar with are probably the ones that address problems with baby products and automobiles. Why are recalls issued? In many cases, it is a voluntary recall by the company that manufactured the product, with a goal of limiting liability.
As useful as it can be to be alerted to the fact that a product a person has purchased is being recalled due to a safety issue, the reality is that many, many more products actually result in injury or death before a company may be alerted to the potential danger in time to issue a recall. Prescription medication is a good example. Even though medications are subject to rigorous tests, sometimes lasting years, it can be hard to determine the effect of medication once it is released to the public at large. Or, some prescription medications, like those taken by pregnant women, may not have any impact on the person who takes the medication as prescribed, but instead injuries the baby - a result that isn't determined until either late in the pregnancy or after the child is born.
Automobiles, as another example, are complex machines. We trust that the car companies that put their products into the hands of drivers in American have subjected their vehicles to heavy scrutiny and testing. But we all know that vehicles are rated differently based on safety features and other factors that can impact the use of the vehicle. A design flaw may only be detected after thousands of defective vehicles have been sold and hit the roads of America.
There are really three main ways that a person will typically pursue a lawsuit based on products liability law. First, the product in question may have a design defect. A lawsuit in this type of situation will typically name the company or individual that was responsible for the design. Next, there may have been a defect in the manufacturing of the product. And lastly, there may have been a failure to warn consumers about a potential danger associated with the use of the product - this is the reason why we so often see large, seemingly excessive warning labels on products that seem like overkill. If an evaluation of a person's injury due to a defective product determines that any of these factors were in play, a products liability lawsuit may result in compensation for the injured victim.