Consumers have protections in the state of California and when you’re injured using a product, it’s important to talk with a defective products lawyer who will work with you towards the goal of proving your case and winning a fair settlement. That work requires a nuanced understanding of both general product liability principles and how they apply here in California.
Let an Oakland defective products lawyer from our office do the hard work of showing the court how and why your injuries were caused. Call Haley Law Offices at (510) 990-9290 or contact us online today.
As the plaintiff in a defective products case, you and your attorney have the responsibility of showing that a defect occurred at one of three stages. The first possibility is a design defect. This would come by proving that the basic plans for this product were so flawed at the outset that there was no way the product could even be manufactured properly.
That leads us to the second possibility, which is a manufacturing defect. In this instance, perhaps the design was fine, but something went wrong in putting the product together. Anything produced on an assembly line is certainly susceptible to manufacturing defects.
Finally, we come to a labeling defect. There are some products that require reasonable warnings to consumers. A common example is the side effects that may come from medications or the exact instructions on how to use the medication.
The plaintiff only needs to establish failure at one of these three stages to demonstrate a product is defective. Proving either of the first two–defects in design or manufacturing will quite likely be intense legal discovery work. This is where, after a lawsuit is filed, your attorney works to get access to a company’s documentation that might demonstrate the flaws.
If the plaintiff’s charge is a labeling defect, that can come down to what it is, specifically, that is allegedly missing from the label. A manufacturer will not be responsible for laying out every last possible risk.
For example, if the plaintiff purchases a floor heater, a court will likely presume they know not to plug it in right by a bucket of water because that would cause electrocution. But if the potential fire hazard rises after eight hours of continuous use? Now, the plaintiff will have a good case to argue that this limitation should have been made known.
The most common examples of defective products involve medicine, medical devices, auto parts, household appliances and children’s toys.
Most personal injury cases require that the plaintiff prove negligence, which involves demonstrating that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care. But in the state of California, reasonable care is not a defense that can be used in a defective products case.
This is very good news for plaintiffs. Let’s say it can be proven that the defect took place on an assembly line. Without strict liability, the manufacturer might respond by saying that because they give their employees a reasonable workload, reasonable training and reasonable supervision, they have therefore exercised care which is…well, reasonable. That might very well be true. And in other areas of personal injury law, it might be a winning defense. But not with defective products. Under strict liability, the reasonableness of the care is irrelevant.
The reason California incorporates strict liability with defective products is that it’s more doable for a large company to insure itself against possible liabilities and spread the financial risk, than an individual consumer can handle the costs that come with their potential injuries.
Proving the Product Is Defective
Strict liability is certainly beneficial for consumers, but it doesn’t give plaintiffs an automatic win. It still has to be proven that the product did meet one of three criteria for a defective product–a failure of design, manufacturing or labeling.
In the case of a manufacturing defect, it will be necessary to first demonstrate that the product worked differently than the standard prototype of the same product. There will be a number of cases where this will be self-evident–the kitchen blender that starts on fire pretty clearly worked differently than the prototype.
But there will be other cases that aren’t as cut-and-dried. Let’s say your injuries in a fender bender happened due to the air bag. Is it really a defective air bag or were there other factors involved? In a case like this–and many others in the product liability area–expert witness testimony may be required for the court to reach a conclusion.
In a design defect, the product performed exactly as one might expect and still caused injuries. One of the questions that must be answered in court is what a reasonable person would expect from using the product. A basic example might be a chest of drawers that topples over. The product was assembled correctly, so there is no problem in manufacturing. A reasonable person certainly does not assume that a chest of drawers carries any inherent risk of falling over. But if poor design leaves the chest unable to withstand even the modest shaking that can happen in a home through day-to-day living, then you have the case for a design defect.
Call Haley Law Offices at (510) 990-9290 or here online to talk with an Oakland defective products lawyer who understands what’s needed to win cases and secure fair settlements.
What Is Reasonable Expectation?
The question of reasonable expectations will also arise in labeling defect issues. The court will determine if a warning–presuming it was given at all–was adequate. A warning buried in the fine print at an impossible-to-read size is less likely to pass muster than a clear warning that can be easily read by the average person.
A defendant–the manufacturer–may attempt to argue that their product was misused. This falls outside the scope of design, manufacturing and labeling and consequently shifts the burden of proof to the defense. If a company wants to say that you misused the blender when making a morning smoothie, and that this misuse caused the blender to start a fire, then it will be up to the company to prove that.
We Represent Clients in Northern California
Defective products cases require intense legal work and the experience necessary to know how to go about investigating corporate failure. Haley Law Offices has experience in spades. We’ve been a part of the Oakland community for over 65 years. Our lead counsel, Matthew Haley, has been practicing law since 1982. Let us handle your case. We'll work hard for you, and we’ll fight for you.
Call today at (510) 990-9290 or contact us online to set up a consultation.
Over 80 Years of Dedicated Experience
Since 1955, our attorneys have been dedicated to fighting for justice for our clients.
Connected in the Legal Community
We're deeply rooted in the local community, meaning more resources to help you win.
Skilled & Trustworthy Representation
We're relentlessly dedicated to constantly sharpening our skills in the courtroom.
Three Generations of Trial Attorneys
Fighting for you runs in the family; we're proud of our legacy of pursuing justice for you.