When companies release products to the market, it is their duty to ensure that each unit of the product is safe for consumption. That’s what quality control is for. Products that didn’t pass the quality standard are barred from reaching stores.
But sometimes, companies unknowingly send out a few units of defective products in stores. If consumers purchase those products, they might suffer injuries. In that case, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or another governing agency will issue a recall for the product. A product recall is a mandate for manufacturers to retrieve and replace a defective product. In some cases, it’s the manufacturers themselves that issue the recall.
Consumers shouldn’t downplay the effects of using a defective product. Even something as minor as a damaged label should be addressed. At best, a defective product will only cause an acne breakout. At worst, it could kill you, and your family will find themselves in the office of an experienced wrongful death attorney, seeking justice for your demise.
Examples of Product Liability Cases
Before discussing how to correctly deal with defective products, let’s understand what product liability means. Product liability is a claim in which companies are held liable for releasing defective products that resulted in injuries, or sometimes, death. Over the years, many companies, including renowned ones, have experienced a product liability case.
One well-known case was of Philip Morris’s in 2002. A woman filed charges against the company after she contracted lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. She claimed that Philip Morris caused her tobacco addiction because they didn’t warn her of the risks of smoking. Philip Morris ended up owing punitive damages amounting to $28 billion and compensatory damages of $850,000. They appealed the case and, nine years later, the amount they owed was reduced to $28 million.
Hence, you’d notice that cigarette packs today always include the risks of smoking. Cigarette ads also come with reminders that smoking is dangerous to one’s health. Though it’s easy to research the effects of smoking before buying a cigarette, it’s still a tobacco company’s responsibility to warn smokers of the dangers of their habit.
Another famous product liability case was of Dow Corning’s in 1998. Their silicone breast implants ruptured, causing injury, bodily damage, and scleroderma on the women who used them. As a result, each injured woman would receive between $12,000 and $60,000. In addition, Dow Corning had to pay $5,000 to women wishing to have their implants removed. If the implants ruptured, the company owed the woman $25,000.
Luckily, none of these cases resulted in death. But it had been close calls. So if you used a defective product, don’t assume that it was simply a company’s honest mistake.
How to Deal with a Defective Product
1. Check Yourself for Injuries
If the product has caused external damage, like allergic reactions, wounds, or any other type of injury, make sure that you are alright first. Prioritize your well-being, and seek medical attention if needed. Take photos and obtain a statement from a witness or your doctor. It can prove that the product itself has caused the injury, not misuse of the product.
2. Stop Using the Product
Whether you are unsure or not that the product caused your injuries, stop using it. Don’t risk your safety further by testing the product for the second time.
3. File a Lawsuit
Once you have all the evidence ready, see a lawyer. The product’s manufacturer or retailer can be liable in two different ways: negligence or strict liability. Negligence is when the manufacturer or retailer breaches a duty owed to a plaintiff. For example, they didn’t test a product before releasing it to the market. As a result, users of the product got injured.
On the other hand, strict liability doesn’t require proof of negligence. It should simply prove that the product’s defect occurred due to a manufacturing error—for example, wrong design or damaged sealing.
4. Know Your Rights
What if you didn’t buy the product that injured you, only borrowed it? It doesn’t matter; you can still file a defective product claim. You don’t even have to be the product’s user to prove that it’s defective. As long as a product has directly injured you, you’re allowed to file a case. For example, the blade of your neighbor’s lawnmower flew and cut you across the face. Your neighbor isn’t necessarily at fault in that scenario. If you can prove that the lawnmower was designed ineffectively, causing its blade to come off, you can claim compensation for your injury.
Note that just because you can sue companies for selling defective products doesn’t mean every single ineffective product should lead to a lawsuit. Consult various professionals (health experts, service experts, etc.) before taking a case to court.