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What is Product Liability? Remember when a woman sued McDonalds because her coffee burned her? Or when Honda had to recall thousands of cars for manufacturing defects? Those cases have to do with product liability. In a nutshell, product liability law deals with defective or dangerous products. If you are sold a defective product, like a car with an improperly manufactured break system, and you are injured by that product, you can sue the company who sold it to you for damages. In most cases you don’t even have to have purchased the product—if a defective product injures anyone after it’s sold, the company that manufactured it can be held liable.

The Chain of Distribution It’s not just the parent company that can be held liable, either. All levels of the supply chain, from the manufacturer to the retail store, are responsible for possible damages. However, if you sold something at a garage sale, you won’t be held liable, because the product wasn’t purchased outside of the supplier’s regular course of business. When it comes to product liability, there are three kinds of product defects: design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects.

Design Defects When a product has a flaw from its intentional design, it’s called a design defect. That means the flaw was there from the beginning—it started at the drawing board. For a defect in design to be proven, you have to show that there was gross negligence on the part of the designer, or that there was a reasonable, cost appropriate alternative.

Manufacturing Defects If the defect originated somewhere in the manufacturing process, then it’s a manufacturing defect. Basically all you have to do is put the flawed product next to the intended one, showing them to be different. This demonstrates that the mistake occurred during the manufacturing process, and the flaw is not based on the design. Because of this, manufacturing defects are usually the easiest to prove.

Marketing Defects Marketing defects are things like improper labeling, insufficient instructions, or failure to make adequate warnings. Think back to the McDonalds coffee—because of that case we now see the “Warning: Contents May Be Hot” labels on all their coffee cups.


Some products can be deemed “unavoidably unsafe,” such as a set of knives. But the companies who manufacture and sell such inherently dangerous products are required to properly label with warnings.

Product Liability laws are complex There are no federal laws governing product liability—all cases are handled on the state level. There can be huge differences between states, and each state has extremely complex guidelines. If you live in Utah, you need to hire a Utah liability law attorney, just like you would need to hire a Utah injury attorney or a Utah wrongful death attorney for those specific things. Because of the complexities of liability law, it’s important to hire expert attorneys. They need to know all the ins and outs of their state’s specific laws. Call Young and Young today to find out more about our expertise in product liability law. Photo Credit: Wikipedia, DeviantArt

What is product liability  

In a nutshell, product liability law deals with defective or dangerous products. If you are sold a defective product, like a car with an imp...

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