San Diego Product Liability Attorney
The Mitchell Firm and our partners are experts in product liability when it comes to the law and litigation aspect of getting justice for our clients. We have been a part of many personal injuries and wrongful death lawsuits nationwide against companies that manufactured or sold a defective or unsafe product. The product liability cases that are handpicked by Stephen Mitchell involve many defective or hazardous conditions in which products, including tools, machinery, toys, industrial equipment, flammable clothing, recreational vehicles, automobiles, medical devices, and prescription drugs have been concerned. Product liability is the primary focus area for the lawyers at The Mitchell Firm, and Stephen Mitchell himself will answer any questions one might have concerning an injury resulting from a defective or unsafe product.
Defective or Unsafe Products Are a Significant Cause of Severe Injuries and Wrongful Deaths
The Mitchell Firm will fight on your behalf to make manufacturers nationwide improve in the safety of their products. In the past 25 years, we have encountered an unreasonable amount of dangerous products. These hazardous products are removed from the market, and their designs or warnings have greatly improved. To protect consumers like yourself, we continue to fight with manufacturers today. We still have a long way to go because many defective and unsafe products are reaching the marketplace, injuring, or killing their consumers.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), defective products cause nearly 30 million injuries and over 22,000 fatalities each year. On average, the CPSC requires the recall of approximately 400 products from the American marketplace every year. These recalls help lower the risk of injury or death to consumers, but they do not come close to eliminating the problem of dangerous and deadly products. With the rising of imported products from China and other foreign countries, the risk of being injured or killed by a defective product will likely remain a concern for many years to come.
The Need for an Experienced Nationwide Product Liability Attorney
For many reasons, cases involving claims of product liability tend to be more costly and complicated than other types of personal injury cases. The defendant is often a sizable corporate manufacturer who has vast resources to fight and protract the litigation. Product liability cases usually present complicated engineering or scientific issues concerning: the product’s design, its potential hazards, and the cause of its malfunction or failure. Again, requiring considerable research, study, and analysis by the attorneys handling the case. Testimony from an engineer or another qualified expert in the field at issue is almost always required to support the allegations asserted by the plaintiff in a product liability case. To develop the opinions he or she will offer at trial, experts in product liability cases often need to conduct studies, experiments, and accident reconstructions. Experts and the work they perform can be quite expensive. Finally, product liability is a very complex area of law. There are claims and legal issues which are unique to cases involving allegations that an unsafe or defective product caused someone’s injury or death.
The Mitchell Firm is experienced with these types of cases and concentrates a considerable part of his practice on product liability law. Anyone who has been injured or had a family member killed by a dangerous product should seek out representation from an experienced product liability lawyer. Contact our office to see if we can alleviate some or all of your stressful questions and demands made by the manufacturer. The Mitchell Firm has the resources and expertise needed to pursue cases against even the largest of companies that have produced an unsafe or defective toy, vehicle, tire, machine, tool, drug, medical device, or other product.
Overview of Product Liability Law
“Product liability” generally refers to a legal claim or lawsuit in which someone alleges that a product malfunctioned, failed to work correctly, or was too dangerous and, as a result, caused one or more persons to suffer bodily injury or death.
In a product liability lawsuit:
- the plaintiff seeks to hold the designer, manufacturer, distributor, and/or seller of the defective product legally liable for damages arising from the injuries or death caused by that unsafe product.
- As a general rule, laws governing product liability cover personal property, not land, real estate, or improvements to real property. Examples of “personal property” governed by product liability laws include all types of consumer goods such as tools, appliances, toys, furniture, firearms, sporting gear, and motor vehicles.
- Product liability claims can also involve all types of industrial, construction, or farming machinery or equipment. Also, raw or prepared food items, beverages, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine, and medical devices can be the subject of product liability lawsuits.
- Almost anything that is manufactured or produced and then placed in the stream of commerce for purchase or consumption by the public can be the subject of product liability litigation.
Each state has its laws governing product liability. There is no uniform federal product liability law. Therefore, product liability laws are not entirely the same in each state. Some states have enacted statutes that govern product liability lawsuits. In other countries, product liability laws are derived from appellate court decisions.
Product liability lawsuits have involved many different types of products, including, but not limited to, the following:
- toys, baby cribs, mattresses, baby strollers, infant bassinets, playpens, changing tables, child car seats, swings, playground equipment and other items used for or by children;
- motorized recreational vehicles such as 4-wheelers, ATV's, motor scooters, mopeds, mini-bikes, and golf carts;
- jet skis, motorboats, marine trailers, rafts, ski equipment, scuba gear, life jackets, life preservers and other goods used for water recreation;
- treadmills, exercise bikes, stair machines, weight apparatus, and other exercise equipment;
- trampolines, bungee cords, paintball guns, bicycles, tricycles, skateboards, rollerblades, skates, scooters, helmets, and other similar recreational items;
- tents, sleeping bags, propane heaters, and grills, deer stands, portable generators and other gear used for hunting, fishing or camping;
- rifles, pistols, handguns, trigger locks, pellet guns, and other firearms;
- motor vehicles (including cars, trucks, vans, SUV's, and motorcycles) and automotive parts or accessories such as tires, brakes, cruise control systems, batteries, seatbelts, airbags, trailer hitches, cargo racks, jack stands, and child car seats;
- industrial equipment such as forklifts, hoists, air compressors, punch presses, boilers, turbines, conveyor systems, and manufacturing machinery;
- construction equipment such as bobcats, tractors, bulldozers, cranes, jackhammers, welding tools, scaffolding, ladders, hard hats, and power lifts;
- elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, and similar passenger moving equipment;
- baby pools, above ground pools, permanently constructed pools, whirlpools, hot tubs, spas, diving boards, pool slides, pool covers, pool fencing, and gates, etc.;
- lawnmowers, chainsaws, mulchers, blowers, tillers, and other lawn equipment;
- saws, drills, nail drivers and other power tools;
- smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, burglar alarms, gas monitors, carbon monoxide detectors, and other safety equipment;
- household appliances such as water heaters, dishwashers, stoves, furnaces, gas fireplaces, space heaters, irons, deep fryers, microwaves, outdoor grills, and garage door openers;
- hairdryers, disposable lighters, electric blankets, batteries, and other consumer goods;
- toxic or potentially poisonous substances such as pesticides, herbicides, insect repellants, solvents, household cleaners, insulation, lead paint, and other chemicals;
- firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers, aerial bombs, quarter sticks, and other fireworks;
- highly flammable clothing such as kid pajamas and Halloween costumes;
- food or drink products including tainted or contaminated raw meats or vegetables, undercooked beef or chicken, and negligently stored or prepared food;
- medical devices such as implants, ECG monitors, coronary stents, pacemakers, defibrillators, surgical mesh, heart valve replacements, orthopedic bone screws, and joint replacement components;
- contaminated or unsafe blood, blood by-products, or tissue given to a patient during surgery or other medical procedures; and
- pharmaceutical products such as prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine, diet pills, contact lenses, and contact lens solutions.
All of the products mentioned above are actual products that have been subject to lawsuits nationwide. Many of these products have been the subject of recalls required by various federal agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
If you are injured, or a family member has been killed by any of the products listed above, or by any other defective product, you should consider contacting The Mitchell Firm.
Today, the modern view is that a designer, manufacturer, and/or seller of a defective product should be held liable for any injury or death which occurs while that unsafe product is being used in a manner intended or reasonably foreseeable to its producer.
- In this country, current product liability laws are based upon a recognition that as compared to manufacturers, most consumers do not have the same opportunity to:
- analyze or inspect products available for sale,
- nor the same ability to recognize potential hazards,
- nor the same ability to internalize and spread the costs associated with injuries caused by such dangers.
There are many reasons The Mitchell Firm is an expert in Product Liability Law, but our primary motivation is you. We understand how hard it would be for a consumer to change a law, especially if they have no idea how the laws work.
One of the reasons we fight, beyond compensation, is to implement and execute and change in the law because it gives the manufacturer incentive to build better products without the risk to their consumers. WE are in the best position to improve the safety of their products, and society dramatically benefits from the existence of this financial incentive to make safe products. There is little doubt that products are more reliable today because of our product liability laws.
Additionally, we prefer that the manufacturer, rather than the injured consumer, absorb the burden of paying the costs associated with injuries caused by a defective product. The manufacturer is better able to absorb such costs and spread them to all consumers. Plus, the manufacturer should not be allowed to profit from the sale of products without the risk of having to pay for a consumer's injuries or death in the event its products prove to be defective.
- Proof that the product at issue was "defective"
- and that such defective condition(s) approximately caused the injuries or fatality suffered by the plaintiff or his family member
- Must show that the product reached the purchaser and end-user in substantially the same condition as it was when it left the manufacturer's facility
- The plaintiff must establish the product is being used in a manner intended by the manufacturer or reasonably foreseeable to the manufacturer
(This law changes from state to state requiring knowledge of a nationwide legal system and The Mitchell Firm specializes in product liability cases nationwide.)
- The product was "defective" at the time of the injury-causing event;
- The defective condition proximately caused the injury or death at issue;
- At the time of the injury-causing event, the product was still in substantially the same condition as it was when it left the defendant's possession; and
- The product used in a manner intended by the manufacturer that was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant.
The first and most critical element of a product liability case is establishing that the product was in a "defective" condition at the time it caused an injury or death. In most jurisdictions, a product is considered to be "defective" when it is "unreasonably dangerous for its intended purpose."
There are two critical concepts in this widely accepted definition of "defective."
- For a product to be "defective," it must be "unreasonably dangerous." The emphasis should be on the word "unreasonable."
- Many products inherently can be dangerous, but the fact that they are hazardous alone does not make them "defective."
- For example, a knife can cause lacerations, and a lawnmower is capable of amputating the hand or foot of its user. That ability to cut and sever makes these products, in general, potentially dangerous to users, but it does not necessarily make them unreasonably dangerous. Like many other products that are capable of causing injury, these products are generally not considered to be defective because it is accepted that the utility and benefits of knives and lawnmowers outweigh the inherent dangers they pose. Therefore, the manufacturers of every knife or lawnmower are not always liable in every case where someone is hurt while using such a product. However, a particular knife might be considered "unreasonably dangerous" if, for instance, its handle was too weak, causing it to break off during regular use, thereby allowing the user to be cut or stabbed. Similarly, a particular brand of lawn mower could be considered "unreasonably" dangerous because it failed to incorporate technologically available and relatively inexpensive safeguards, which reduced the risk that the user's hand or foot could get near the blade and suffer an amputation.
- If a product is "unreasonably dangerous" and, therefore, "defective" is it viewed from the perspective of its intended or foreseeable use?
- Many safe products can become very dangerous when they are abused or put to a use not intended by the manufacturer.
- For example, most drugs are relatively safe if they are taken in the correct dosage, but they can become "unreasonably dangerous" when not used as directed. A prescription may be dangerous when it is not appropriately taken or in the right amount, but that does not necessarily make the drug "defective" under the product liability law in most states, including Georgia. A drug or any product will only be considered defective if it is harmful or even deadly while being used as instructed and intended by the manufacturer.
Product liability claims are divided into three categories. The law in most states recognizes that a product can be "defective" in three separate ways. The three types of product defects are:
- Manufacturing Defect – occurs during the production or assembly process;
a. A manufacturing defect occurs when some mistake or abnormality takes place during the manufacturing process, thereby causing the product not to conform to its design specifications or to vary from the condition it was expected to be in at the conclusion of its production. A manufacturing defect usually involves a single unit or a batch of products made around the same time. In a manufacturing defect case, the plaintiff does not allege that the design of every product produced by the defendant is inherently defective. Instead, the plaintiff contends that there was something flawed or wrong with the particular product that caused his or her injury. A manufacturing defect can be caused by many things such as the undetected use of a broken component part, the mistaken use of substandard materials, human error on the assembly line, faulty production equipment, and/or the failure to adequately inspect or test the product during or at the end of the production cycle.
- Design Defect – takes place during the pre-production design or testing phase;
a. In contrast, a design defect involves a situation where the product is alleged to be unreasonably dangerous even though it was manufactured and assembled exactly as intended. In a design defect case, there are no unique flaws or imperfections in the particular product causing the injury. Instead, the plaintiff alleges that every product is inherently unsafe because of the way it is designed. Many design defect cases involve allegations that materials chosen to be used too weak for the anticipated use of the product, or that the product could have been made safer if it had incorporated specific safety devices. In almost every design defect case, the plaintiff will need to retain an engineer or another expert to testify about how and why the product's design is or was inherently too dangerous.
- Warning or Instructional Defect – can take place before, during, or after the product is produced and marketed.
a. A warning or instructional defect involves a failure to include adequate instructions describing the intended and correct use of the product, and/or a failure to provide sufficient warnings about the known or foreseeable hazards associated with usage of the product. Not every product can be made to be perfectly safe, and a non-defective product may still pose certain risks even when used as instructed. Therefore, there is an obligation by the manufacturer and/or any company which packages or labels the product to provide understandable and conspicuous warnings about the known and foreseeable dangers (especially those which are or may not be visible) associated with the regular use of the product. Any failure to give such needed warnings can form the basis of a product liability claim. Under Georgia law, the duty to warn is considered to be continuous and exists both at the time the product is produced and after it is sold to the consumer. Therefore, a manufacturer would be required to attempt to warn users of its product about any potential dangers, it becomes aware of even after the product has been sold.
In most states, plaintiffs in product liability cases can assert claims based upon the following legal grounds:
- Strict Liability
- Breach of Warranty
- Misrepresentation or Fraud
The Mitchell Firm is aggressive in its goal to provide their clients with the justice they deserve on each "cause of action" supported by the four legal theories previously mentioned.
A product liability case can be based on one or more of these "causes of action." By assessing the unique facts of each case, Attorney Stephen Mitchell can determine which of these claims are applicable and have merit. In almost every product liability case, the plaintiff will allege negligence and strict liability against the defendant(s).
The ability to utilize the law in terms of "strict liability" is a significant advantage to the plaintiff and sets product liability litigation apart from other personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Under strict liability, a manufacturer can be held liable for deaths or injuries caused by its defective product regardless of whether it acted negligently.
- Strict liability can be established upon proof that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous and that such defect caused injury or death to a consumer or bystander.
- Thus, the concept of "fault" is absent, and the defendant's legal liability to the plaintiff can be established even if the defendant acted with due care.
- Proof that the manufacturer or seller acted negligently is not required.
In sum, under the doctrine of strict liability, the focus is not upon the actions and conduct of the defendant, but solely upon the condition of the defendant's product itself.
What do I do with the product that caused my injury?
First off, save it and do not throw it away. The specific product which allegedly caused your injury or death is the most critical piece of evidence in a product liability case.
We use it for evidence to prove that the defendant was indeed the company that produced the product involved in the injury-causing event.
Evidence: the product itself may provide evidence relevant to several other issues such as:
- how the accident occurred,
- whether the product is altered or modified,
- and/or whether the product was being misused or put to its intended use at the time of the accident.
- The product itself is especially critical in a manufacturing defect case because it may be the only evidence of the flawed assembly, broken part, or other imperfection that was created during the production process.
As a practical matter, it can be difficult for the plaintiff to prevail in a product liability lawsuit if the plaintiff does not have the product alleged to have caused the injury or death, especially where a manufacturing defect is alleged.
Therefore, it is imperative that someone locates, secures, and then preserves the product (and all pieces or components of the product) as soon as possible.
- The product itself.
- Photographs and/or videotapes should be taken from the accident scene.
- If the product (or any parts thereof) is still located at or near where it was at the time of the injury-causing event, detailed photographs of the scene and product should be taken prior to moving or removal of the product.
- Once the product is secured, it should be photographed in detail to document the condition it was in as close to the time of the accident as possible.
- At some point, the product should be put in a secure area of storage where it can be preserved in the condition it was in immediately following the accident.
- The product should be moved, handled, and stored in a manner that will preserve it as evidence for a possible future product liability lawsuit.
- No repairs should be made, and nothing should be done to the product, which would alter or change its condition until it can be examined by a product liability attorney and/or an expert retained to explore and analyze this evidence.
In 1972, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Act, which, among other things, created the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC is an independent federal regulatory agency whose legislative purpose is to "protect the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products." The CPSC is authorized to develop voluntary and mandatory industry standards, to ban products under certain circumstances, to pursue recalls of products that present substantial hazards to consumers, to conduct research, and to provide general public education about product safety issues. Anyone can obtain product safety information or report an accident or injury caused by an unsafe product by calling the CPSC toll free Hotline at (800) 638-2772.
There are over 40 different foodborne pathogens (including fungi, viruses, parasites, and bacteria) that can cause human illnesses. According to the CDC, these pathogens cause more than 70 million cases of food poisoning in the U.S. each year. Some of these lead to dangerous foodborne illnesses. Every year, more than 5,000 people die, and more than 300,000 people are hospitalized because of diseases they contracted from foodborne pathogens.
Product liability laws apply not only to tangible goods and equipment, but also to perishable items such as raw meats and vegetables, canned or processed food items, bottled drinks, and cooked or prepared food served at a store or restaurant. Food poisoning victims may be able to assert strict liability claims against the parties responsible for producing, preparing, and/or selling a contaminated or negligently prepared food or drink product that results in food poisoning or foodborne illness.
Every year, tens of thousands of people are seriously hurt or killed in motor vehicle accidents. Therefore, it is not surprising that automobiles, trucks, vans, and SUVs are often the subject of product liability lawsuits. These cases arise because an auto defect (such as brake failure or malfunctioning accelerator) that caused the crash to occur, or because the vehicle was "un-crashworthy" thereby causing or allowing an occupant to be severely injured during the crash sequence. Automotive product liability is an exceptionally complex area that The Mitchell Firm handles with grace.
Large companies manufacture most construction equipment, industrial machinery, and consumer goods. Thus, many product liability lawsuits involve litigation against large corporate entities. These companies and their liability insurers have vast resources to fight product liability lawsuits, so attorneys representing plaintiffs must be prepared and able to battle the considerable forces of big business. The Mitchell Firm has the resources and determination necessary to pursue product liability litigation, even if that means filing a lawsuit against a powerful conglomerate. The attorneys at The Mitchell Firm have a proven track record of handling product liability cases.
We are nationwide mass-tort lawyers operating in multiple districts and understand multi-district litigation whose practice includes a concentration on product liability litigation. Please contact us if you or a family member has been the victim of a dangerous drug, unsafe toy, malfunctioning equipment, defective machine, tire failure, un-crashworthy vehicle, or other hazardous product. We have considerable experience pursuing product liability claims against manufacturers and retailers Nationwide. We are willing to evaluate your case and assess whether there are meritorious product liability claims to pursue, and you can call us if you have other questions you would like us to address.
Product liability actions are quite complex, and establishing a legal fault often requires the assistance and testimony of experts. Every state has its laws and specific statutes that will affect product liability action. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury caused by a potentially defective product, The Mitchell Firm will be able to answer your questions and advocate on your behalf in the pursuit of fair compensation.
Defective and dangerous products are the cause of thousands of injuries every year in the United States.
"Product liability law," and the legal rules concerning who is responsible for such defective or dangerous products, is often different from ordinary injury law, thus creating a new set of rules, making it easier for an injured person to recover damages.