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A Guide to Product Liability

When using a product — whether that be a tool, a vehicle, or other types of equipment — you expect that the product will work as intended. Unfortunately, even products can fail sometimes. That’s why it’s important to know what options are available should the product fail.

What is Product Liability?

Product liability is when the manufacturer or seller is held responsible for putting a defective product out on the market. The law requires manufacturers to produce a product that is not dangerous to consumers and sellers can also be held responsible as part of the distribution chain.

Surprisingly, there is not a federal product liability law. However, product liability claims are determined through state laws and usually fall under responsibilities such as breach of warranty, strict liability, and negligence.

In Tennessee, it’s important that if a person wants to file a product liability claim that they do so in a prompt manner. That’s because there is a statute of limitations regarding product liability in the state. Product liability claims must be filed within six years of the date of the injury or death. Additionally, a second deadline of ten years can also be applied. This is known as the statute of repose and applies to when the product was first purchased or used.

Types of Product Defects

When filing a product liability claim, it’s important to know the three different types of product defects:

  • Defective Design — this is when the product is designed in a manner that is different compared to its original design and is a defect for more than one item. Flawed designs don’t always mean the product is dangerous, but in some cases, it can. For example, if a piece of equipment in a vehicle fails and you become injured in an accident because of that equipment failing, that would be a defective design.

    Usually, manufacturers identify defective designs within a product line and will issue a recall. This is the manufacturer taking responsibility for the defective design and protecting their company prior to anyone getting injured because of the defective design.
  • Defective Manufacturing — this is when the product may be designed correctly, but the manufacturer did not use the best materials or provide enough quality control over the making of the product and as a result, an issue arises with the product. When dealing with defective manufacturing, the responsibility falls back on the manufacturer as they are responsible for creating a product that is supposed to be safe for its intended use.
  • Defective Marketing - this is when there are not proper warnings or instructions on how to use the product. If there is not correct information about how the product works or how a consumer should use it, a consumer could hold the manufacturer or seller responsible for defective marketing. This is also why now anytime you receive a hot beverage at a fast-food restaurant, the cup will say a phrase such as “Caution: This product is hot.”

Unavoidable Unsafe Products

It is critical for consumers to know that in some cases, the intended purpose of some products can be unsafe. For example, a set of kitchen knives is expected to have sharp edges, otherwise, it would be too dull. However, suppose the product is not used in the correct capacity (for example, using a kitchen knife to open a package rather than cut food, and the person using that knife ends up cutting themselves). In that case, the manufacturer is not held responsible because the consumer did not use the product for its intended purpose.

What To Do If You Have a Defect Product

If you or a loved one were injured because of a defective product, contact the team at Meade Law Group right away. Our Johnson City attorneys have helped others get compensated because of defective products and we will work for the best outcome for you.