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What is products liability?

Products liability law refers to the legal framework governing the responsibility of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers for injuries or damages caused by their products. This area of law addresses the duty of companies to design, produce, and distribute safe products for consumer use and provides a means for consumers to seek compensation for damages resulting from defective or dangerous products.

For example, suppose a consumer purchases a vehicle with a defective airbag and sustains injury in a crash due to the defect. In that case, they may have a products liability claim against the vehicle manufacturer, the airbag manufacturer, or the dealership that sold the vehicle. In this case, it is necessary to investigate the circumstances of the injury, determine the responsible parties, and pursue legal actions to seek compensation for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Products liability law is an essential field of law because it helps to ensure that companies are held to appropriate liability standards while also protecting defendants’ rights to defend themselves against liability claims.

Need help with a products liability case? Schedule your consultation today with a top business litigation attorney.

What legal issues typically arise related to products liability?

The following disputes are among the most common to products liability:

  • Design defects: When a product is inherently unsafe or defective due to a flaw in its design, making it dangerous even when used as intended.
  • Manufacturing defects: When a product has a safe design, but incorrect assembly makes it unsafe.
  • Marketing defects: When a buyer purchases a product with inadequate warnings or instructions, or the product’s marketing misrepresents its safety or intended use.
  • Breach of warranty: When a manufacturer or seller fails to fulfill the terms of a warranty, such as a guarantee that a product will perform in a certain way, harming the consumer.
  • Negligence: When a manufacturer or seller fails to exercise reasonable care in designing, manufacturing, marketing, or distributing a product, harming the consumer.

What are relevant laws related to products liability in Florida?

In Florida, a combination of common law and federal and state statutory law guides products liability actions.

Within the Florida Statutes, section 768.81 addresses Florida’s comparative fault laws and, more specifically, defines a “products liability action” as a civil action based upon a theory of strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, nuisance, or similar theories for damages caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation, or assembly of a product.” This section also addresses strict liability for injuries caused by defective products.

At the federal level, laws and regulations, such as the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, also apply to products liability claims in Florida and can provide additional remedies for injured consumers.

What is required to prove a case of products liability in Florida?

In Florida, to prove a case of products liability, a plaintiff generally must establish the following elements:

  • The product was defective: The plaintiff must show that it was flawed in some way, either in its design, manufacture, or marketing.
  • The defect caused the plaintiff’s injury: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defect in the product caused their injury or damages.
  • The plaintiff was using the product as intended: The plaintiff must show that they were using the product as the manufacturer or seller intended or in a way that was foreseeable to the manufacturer or seller.
  • The defendant was responsible for the defect: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant was responsible for the defect in the product, either through design, manufacturing, or marketing.
  • The plaintiff suffered damages: The plaintiff must demonstrate that they suffered actual damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or other harm.

When a set of facts is appropriate to meet the requirements of products liability, there are many paths a claimant may take. We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path forward to seek appropriate remedies, such as:

  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Injunctive relief
  • Product recall
  • Disgorgement
  • Restitution

To see what actions may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

What are common defenses to products liability in Florida?

The primary defenses to products liability in Florida include:

  • Assumption of risk: The defendant may argue that the plaintiff was aware of the potential risks associated with the product and voluntarily assumed those risks.
  • Product misuse: The defendant may argue that the plaintiff used the product in a manner that was not intended or foreseeable and that such misuse caused their injury.
  • Comparative fault: The defendant may argue that the plaintiff’s negligence or fault contributed to their injury or damages.
  • Statute of limitations: The defendant may argue that the plaintiff’s claim is time-barred because they failed to file their lawsuit within the required statute of limitations period.
  • Lack of causation: The defendant may argue that the alleged defect in the product did not cause the plaintiff’s injury or damages.
  • Preemption: The defendant may argue that federal law preempts the plaintiff’s state law claims.

The core strategies for defending products liability cases in Florida involve attacking the plaintiff’s evidence and theories of liability, highlighting any potential product misuse, and shifting the responsibility for the injury or damages to the plaintiff. Successful defense in products liability cases requires a deep understanding of the relevant law, the specific product, or the particular industry.

To see what defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

Have more questions about a products liability-related situation?

Crucially, this overview of products liability does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances.

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively.

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant.

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation.

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