A defective airbag part caused a recall of more than 3 million vehicles manufactured between 2000 and 2004 by Honda, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota. The defective device may cause an explosion sending shrapnel into the vehicle’s passenger area.
Can a driver injured by a faulty canister successfully sue the automobile and airbag part manufacturers under a strict liability product liability theory?
Strict liability in products liability suit
Under a strict products liability legal theory, it is not necessary to show fault, negligence or a breach of warranty. Under California case law, the injured person only needs to show:
The product was defective
The defect existed before the manufacturer released the product
The defect caused the injury to the person
The focus of the strict products liability claim is on the defective product itself and not the designer, manufacturer or supplier.
Three types of defects
The first step in proving products liability under a strict liability theory is to show that the product was defective. The plaintiff must prove one of the following types of defects: design, manufacturing or failure to warn.
A design defect exists when a foreseeable risk of harm could have been reduced or prevented by using a different, but feasible design. A sign of the existence of this type of defect is that every product of this model is faulty.
When there are mistakes or problems in the production phase of a product, a manufacturing defect exists. The manufacturer may be found liable for failing to detect the defect before the product reaches the consumer. In this type, some of the products may be faulty and some may be safe.
When a product is designed and manufactured properly, but may be hazardous if used in a foreseeable manner, the product must have clear, concise and visible warnings. If the product lacks such warnings, the product is defective.