What Are Product Liability Cases?
Texas statute defines product liability as civil actions taken against manufacturers and/or sellers of defective products that caused consumer injury and the resulting damages to users of the products.
Liability can be based on three types of failures:
- Design defects render a product inherently dangerous even if they are manufactured correctly. Manufacturers can be held liable for damages if there was a safer way to design the product, the safer design would have been feasible from a cost and technology standpoint, and the safer design would not have disallowed the use for which the product was intended. For example, the design of a child’s crib is unsafe if the rails are not close enough to one another to prevent children from getting their heads stuck between them.
- Manufacturing defects render a product unsafe even if it was designed properly. Substandard materials, poor quality control, and ineffective compliance with product design may all lead to manufacturing defects that make products unsafe. A safety harness manufactured on an uncalibrated machine that causes it to tear under stress is a manufacturing defect.
- Failure to warn is a manufacturer’s or seller’s failure to provide directions for safe use of a product or failure to label products with warnings of potential hazards or limitations. For example, if a child’s safety seat is designed for a child up to a certain weight to protect the child in a crash, there is an obligation to warn the user of the weight limitation.
Do You Have to Prove Negligence?
In personal injury cases resulting from auto accidents, you must prove negligence. That is, you must prove that the other driver owed you a duty of care, they breached that duty, and as a result, you were injured.
In Texas product liability cases, no proof of negligence is required. Manufacturers and sellers are strictly liable for the safety of their products. With strict liability, no one needs to be negligent. If a design or manufacturing defect or a failure to warn led to the injury or death of a product user, the manufacturer and/or seller is liable.
What Should I Know About Texas Product Liability Claims?
In Texas, you have 15 years from the date of the purchase of the harmful product to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer and/or seller. If knowledge of the injury was delayed, for example, if you were diagnosed with a disease caused by a chemical product after the 15-year statute of limitations, you may be able to extend the filing deadline. You may also have more time if the manufacturer’s warranty is longer than 15 years.
In Texas, you can recover economic and non-economic damages, including the cost of current and future medical treatment, lost wages, future loss of earning capacity, funeral and burial costs if the victim dies, and property damage that may have occurred. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering or loss of consortium. You may recover damages for loss of companionship and guidance in a wrongful death action.
Texas law also allows for punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages in cases where the liability was reckless or intentional. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant and discourage others from such blatant failures.
Product liability cases are often challenging to prove. It is often necessary to hire experts, such as engineers or physicians, to provide the evidence necessary to convince a judge and jury. Moreover, manufacturers usually have high-liability insurance limits which put a significant amount of money on the line. Insurers will invest heavily in defending their insureds against claims.