Defective product liability
California has a well-developed body of law designed to deal with defective products. But what exactly defines a product as defective? A “product” can be anything from bottled water/food all the way through large hard-goods including cars, motor-homes, and/or planes. A bicycle is defined as a product under the law.
Simply because someone is hurt while using a product does not mean it is faulty. Misuse is one of the defenses that a defendant might claim in a product defect prosecution. For example, if you were performing jumps on a road bike, you most certainly abused the product and it was most likely your responsibility.
A product can be defective in three ways 1) a design defect; 2) a manufacturing defect; 3) a failure to warn or, in some instances, all three. What you present may be a design defect, manufacturing defect, or both.
When it comes to defective products, there is something called “strict product liability” which states that if a product differed from the manufacturer’s intended result or from seemingly identical products from the same manufacturer when it left the manufacturer’s control, and the product was used in a reasonably foreseeable manner by the defendant but still caused a person injury, the manufacturer is liable.
When faced with a manufacturing defect, it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove the flaw in the manufacturing process, and that their product was in the same condition as when it left the manufacturer’s control. If any alterations have been made on the product, the manufacturer may not be found responsible for the defect.
A product that has been correctly manufactured can still be defective due to a flaw in the original design. This type of defect may arise in engineering flaws or safety oversights in the design. Design defects can be established by two tests, the “consumer expectation” and “risk-benefit” tests.
The “risk-benefit” test observes whether the risk of using a product outweighs the benefits. Some factors that may come into play are: the gravity of danger presented by the design, the likelihood of injury, the feasibility of a safer design alternative, the cost to improve the design, and the consequences presented with a design alternative. While the manufacturer is responsible for considering “foreseeable misuse,” they are not expected to make a completely foolproof product.
The burden of the steps necessary to avoid the harm is balanced against the likelihood and degree of possible injury from a given design in a negligent design theory of recovery. If the likelihood and severity of harm surpass the design’s utility/benefit, the manufacturer may be held liable for putting the product on the market, regardless of any product warnings issued.
Anyone engaged in the “chain of distribution” is responsible to the customer for harm caused by a defective product, according to a strong public policy. This is due to the fact that they benefit from the goods and are in a better position to protect themselves from damage by obtaining insurance or raising their prices to account for the expenses of prospective injuries. If the expenses of acquiring insurance, paying claims, or paying damages in a lawsuit make the product too expensive, it will fail and be removed from the market by a simple failure of demand.