People get hurt using products every day, but not every case justifies a product liability lawsuit. From the clumsy carpenter who hits his thumb with a hammer to the housewife using a dishtowel as a hot mitt to remove pies from the oven, most product-related injuries would never see the inside of a courtroom if a lawsuit were brought.
However, some product-related injuries do justify a product liability lawsuit and the injury victim may be entitled to recover expenses for injuries, loss of income and other damages. It could be something as little as spilling a cup of coffee that was unreasonably hot (remember that famous case against McDonald’s Restaurants?) or something as major as someone dying because the brakes on their car failed.
Michigan’s product liability laws set forth criteria under which a manufacturer, retailer, distributor or other party can be held liable for injuries. Generally, if all the following are true then there’s a good chance that a defective product was involved and someone can be held liable in a product liability lawsuit:
While these are good indicators, it’s often more complicated and you should always consult an experienced personal injury attorney familiar with product liability cases.
To win a product liability lawsuit in Michigan, the following conditions must be true:
Plaintiff was injured by the product
The plaintiff must be able to show that he/she was indeed injured and that the injury was caused by the product. The plaintiff does not need to have been the person using the product or the person who purchased the product.
A practical and technically feasible alternative design was available at the time of production
Essentially, there must realistically be a way to make the product that eliminates the defect. For example, coffee doesn’t have to be so hot as to cause second-degree burns when spilled on someone’s lap. No one can actually drink it when it’s that hot anyway. However, certain products can only reach a certain degree of “safeness” before it becomes useless, like chainsaws for example.
The product was being used as intended when the injury occurred
A dish towel is not meant to be a hot mitt and a screwdriver is not meant to be a pry bar. In most cases a retailer or manufacturer can’t be held liable for injuries that occur from using a product in a way it was never designed for. Sometimes, though, the potential for misuse of a product is obvious and a manufacturer may have a duty to warn against misuse. For example, people frequently use electric hair dryers in the bathroom and bathrooms often have bathtubs or sinks full of water, which creates a dangerous situation for electric appliances, so hair dryers should come with clear warnings not to use them near water.
The product was defective as a result of negligent design, negligent manufacturing, failure to warn consumers of inherent dangers or foreseeable misuses, breach of an express or implied warranty, or fraud/misrepresentation in regard to the product.
A manufacturing defect is one that occurs during the process of making the product, including assembly and manufacture of components. A design defect occurs when the product is manufactured according to design, but the design included a dangerous flaw. A failure-to-warn defect occurs when a product with an inherent danger does not include sufficient warnings, either on the product itself or with its packaging — think chainsaw without a warning to keep hands away from the saw blade. If the product fails to perform as warranted or guaranteed or advertising or product descriptions on packaging promise capabilities that the product is incapable of, these situations could also result in a liability lawsuit.
The lawsuit must be brought before the statute of limitations runs out
In Michigan, a plaintiff has three years from the date of the injury to file a product liability lawsuit. Resolution of the lawsuit may extend beyond that deadline, but it has to be brought before the three years runs out. Sometimes an injury is not recognized or diagnosed right away. In such cases the three-year limitation begins on the date the injury is discovered or should have been discovered.
If you’ve suffered a product-related injury and believe that all the above criteria apply to your situation, it is possible you have grounds for a product liability claim. Note that you don’t have to be able to prove all the above at the time of the lawsuit. Much of the evidence your attorney will use to prove your case will be found during the discovery process when your attorney interviews defendants and collects information and data through the use of subpoenas.
If you or a member of your family was injured by a defective product, the Michigan product liability attorneys at Sachs Waldman, P.C., can help you determine whether it’s appropriate to file a product liability lawsuit and take action against the companies responsible. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, wrongful death and/or punitive damages. Call our Detroit product liability attorneys toll free at 1-800-638-6722 to schedule a free consultation.