Injury Attorney in Texas

Product Liability

So you finished mowing the lawn with that efficient, cordless, rechargeable lawnmower but the yard doesn’t quite pass the eyeball test. You simply can’t have overgrown shrubbery as a backdrop to a perfectly manicured front lawn. And damned if the missus didn’t forget to giftwrap those electric hedge trimmers you asked for last Father’s Day. Well, heck, this lawnmower’s light enough; it wouldn’t take much to hoist it over a few of these bushes and let the undercarriage of whirling blades do its thing.

What could possibly go wrong?

Products Liability cases are important because every year millions of new products jump off the retailer’s shelf, entering the stream of commerce in a defective condition. These products, even when used properly, often injure, maim, disfigure, and in severe cases, cause death to unwary consumers. Responsible parties may include the product’s designer, manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer. Regardless of negligence, it’s possible the entire supply chain - from production to distribution to sale - could be held liable for resulting injuries.

Texas recognizes three categories of Products Liability defects giving rise to a cause of action:

  • Design Defects: A Design Defect is an inherent defect; that is, the problem arose in the way the product was made in accordance with the actual design rather than due to any accident or error during the physical process by which it was made. These design defects exist when there is an economically feasible alternative design that could have been implemented that provides the same utility of the original design but offers a safer design alternative.

  • Manufacturing Defects: Explicitly in the title, it’s a defect in the way the product was made. This is not a flaw in the original design (see above) but rather a mistake in the construction, fabrication, and/or assembly of the product. Essentially, a product that fails to conform “to manufacturer’s specifications” denotes a manufacturing defect. The plaintiff must prove that the product’s design was safe, but once the product entered the stream of commerce, the product failed to perform to the design’s conformity due to an error in manufacturing.

  • Marketing Defects: This defect occurs when a non-apparent danger is inherent in a product and the manufacturer failed to provide sufficient warning(s) and/or instruction(s) of foreseeable dangers, reducing the risk of injury. Unlike our lawn mower example above, the injury must occur when the product is being used for its intended purpose (more on our overly ambitious yard man in a moment). Pharmaceuticals can easily fall into this product liability category because they often contain risks that are not adequately disclosed to the patient.

  • Implied Warranty for a Particular Purpose

  • · This guarantee, implied by law, is created when a seller recommends a product for a buyer’s specific needs, and when purchased by the buyer, the seller guarantees the product it has recommended is fit for that particular purpose. Per our yard man example: the seller guarantees the lawnmower is safe to be used for mowing the lawn. The seller is not guaranteeing the lawnmower is safe when used as a hedge trimmer. However, did the manufacturer provide an express disclaimer limiting the type of use for the lawnmower?  Would it make a difference to the injured plaintiff if it had?

  • Implied Warranty of Merchantability

  • · Also implied by law, this warranty assures consumers that the product is “fit for the ordinary purpose for which is sold.” If the purchased product falls short of this basic standard, and the buyer suffers a measurable economic loss from a defect in the product, the buyer has a cause of action for breach of implied warranty of merchantability. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that, absent specific disclaimer language, manufacturers do not escape liability simply because the product has transferred owners (IE; no “privity” requirement). Additionally, the buyer of a used good can rely upon the implied warranty created at the time of first sale. Man Engines & Components, Inc. v. Shows, No. 12-0490 (Tex. June6, 2014).

A Defective Product may also accrue a cause of action based on strict liability - also called Strict Products Liability. This means that manufacturers are always responsible for their product; no proof of design or manufacturing negligence is required. To bring a successful defective product liability case based on strict liability, the plaintiff must prove (a) the product was defective, (b) the product that injured the plaintiff was close to its original condition when sold, (c) the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous, and (d) the defect was the cause of the injury.

As you can see, Products Liability can be tricky. Depending on YOUR precise set of facts, the products involved, and injuries suffered, you may have a case. Give us a call to learn more.

Setterberg Law Office