A jury in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recently awarded $15 million to plaintiffs in an automobile products liability case. Noreen Lewis, a family physician, rented a 2006 Toyota Sienna from the local car-share service PhillyCarShare. The ball joint in the automobile failed causing the vehicle to roll over and tumble down a ravine. Central City Toyota, who was the only defendant determined to be liable, maintained the minivan.
What is products liability?
Products liability is the area of law that obligates suppliers, manufacturers, engineers and designers to pay damages for injuries to consumers caused by defects and dangers in products. The list of potential defective products is boundless — automobiles, toasters, tools, pharmaceuticals, toys.
If you purchase a product and suffer an injury, you have the right to sue for damages. The challenge is to identify the correct legal theory on which you should base your claim. Traditionally, products liability suits were based on negligence and breach of warranty theories.
Every manufacturer must use reasonable care when designing, producing and testing its products. Manufacturers and sellers must use reasonable care to warn of dangerous conditions. When a manufacturer or distributor fails to fulfill these duties and causes injury to a consumer, he or she may be liable under the negligence theory.
Breach of warranty theory
In sales contracts, there are express and implied warranties from the manufacturer or seller to the customer. When a warranty is breached because of a defect in design, manufacture or distribution and a consumer is injured, the injured customer may recover damages.