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Can a Consumer Always Sue When a Defective Product Causes Injury?

Posted in product liability on March 2, 2016

Product designers, manufacturers, and sellers are responsible for providing consumers with safe and properly marketed products. One of these parties may be liable for an injury if there is a hazardous flaw in the design or manufacturing of the item or if the risks or hazards associated with the product have not been properly labeled. You can attempt to sue a manufacturer or seller for a defective product related injury, but that does not always mean the lawsuit will lead to design/manufacturing changes or adequate financial compensation. An attorney may not recommend pursuing a product liability action if the injury was too minor to justify legal action, if the client was using a product for purposes other than intended, or if the client was acting carelessly.

Disclaimers: The Possible Exception to Product Liability Lawsuits

Many product manufacturers use warning labels and disclaimers to prevent individuals from filing product liability lawsuits. Much like a liability waiver, a disclaimer can protect a company from certain foreseeable risks associated with a product. For instance, a hair straightener may come with a disclaimer that the product reaches high temperatures and may cause burns or electrocution if dropped in water. However, it may not protect the company from a hair straightener that sparks, overheats, or explodes. While disclaimers can minimize the liability associated with a product claim, consumers should always seek legal advice before writing off a potential claim. Disclaimers, limited warranties, and warning labels are often not enough to protect a company from dangerous defects.

Understanding Product Liability in Texas

Texas operates under a strict liability rule. Strict liability allows injured individuals to hold a defendant without using the traditional standard of negligence. A plaintiff must only prove the product was sold in a hazardous condition, the seller or manufacturer knew the product would reach the consumer in that state, and the product caused the injury or harm. Proving a breach of warranty in addition to liability may strengthen a plaintiff’s case.

Breach of Warranty Cases

In addition to suing a manufacturer for a defective product, a consumer may also hold a company liable for breaching an implied or express warranty. Express warranties are written or stated protections that come with several types of products, and many provide for standard replacement or repair services for a period of time. Implied warranties apply to every product and require goods to pass certain criteria as sellable. In Texas, a product must pass a test of merchantability. If a product is not of reasonable quality, fit for use, or appropriately packaged, the seller may be liable for any resulting defects, product problems, or injuries. Breach of warranty cases may not require any physical injury, but can strengthen defective product cases. All a plaintiff needs to prove is that the seller did not meet the expectations set forth in an implied and/or expressed warranty. For instance, if you purchase a smartphone to help you with your business, but the seller sold you a product that only handles calls and texts, you may hold him or her liable for failing to sell a merchantable “smartphone.” To successfully win the lawsuit, you will need to prove the breach of warranty caused you serious harm (e.g. prevented you from conducting business).

Finding a Product Liability Attorney

Some injured individuals may not know if they have a legitimate personal injury claim until they speak to an attorney who specializes in defective products. Keep all your warranty and packaging material, and try to preserve as much of the product as possible. All of these items may help your attorney determine if pursuing a defective product/breach of warranty claim makes sense. For a free case evaluation, reach out to the Law Offices of Aaron A. Herbert PC.