A product liability claim arises when a defective consumer product injures someone. When this happens, the injured victim can seek money damages from the defendant in a product liability claim. The defendant can be a manufacturer, a retailer, or any other party in the chain of distribution. The victim does not have to be the person who purchased the product.

What You Have to Prove to Win a Product Liability Claim

Under Texas product liability law you must prove the following elements to win a product liability claim.

  • The defect caused an injury (or a death);
  • The product was defective at the time it injured the victim;
  • The product’s defect was unreasonably dangerous; 
  • The product reached the consumer in the same condition that it was in when it left the manufacturer’s custody; 
  • The product’s defect actually caused the injury; and
  • The defect arose from the defendant’s negligence or other misconduct (unless the defendant is the product manufacturer).

If you sue the product manufacturer for a product liability claim, you don’t have to prove that the product manufacturer was at fault. In essence, manufacturers ensure the safety of the products they manufacture. You must prove fault, however, to win a claim against any other party in the product’s chain of distribution. Further, you cannot sue a private party in a product liability lawsuit (your next-door neighbor who loaned you his chain saw, for example).

Wrongful Death

If someone dies from a product defect, Texas wrongful death law allows the spouse, children, or parents of the victim to file a wrongful death lawsuit based on product liability. If they don’t do so within three months of the death of the victim, the personal representative of the deceased victim’s probate estate may file the lawsuit. In most cases, however, the personal representative is a close relative of the deceased victim.

Design Defect Claims

In a design defect claim, the victim alleges that the defect lies in the design of the product itself. A lawnmower, for example, might contain an inherent danger due to its engine design. A design defect alleges that even if the manufacturer manufactured the product exactly according to its design, the product is still unreasonably dangerous. 

Manufacturers fight hard against design defect claims. This is because if they lose the case, they might have to take the product off the market and redesign it before they can sell it again. Otherwise, they might face a multitude of product liability lawsuits in the future.

Manufacturing Defect Claims

In a manufacturing defect claim, the victim asserts that the defect arose because the manufacturer did not manufacture the product according to its design. The defect may have been intentional. The manufacturer may have cut corners to save money, for example. In other cases, the defect might have been completely unintentional.

Warning/Label Defect Claims

Some products are valuable even though they contain inherent defects. A prescription medication, for example, might save many lives even though it is unreasonably dangerous for certain kinds of patients. Regardless of whether the danger is avoidable or unavoidable, however, the manufacturer must warn of the danger. 

Missing Warnings

The label on a bottle of prescription medication, for example, might state that pregnant women should not take it. If it does not include this warning, it will risk liability. A manufacturer is not liable, however, for warning against every possible defect that a product might contain. It is only liable for the defects that it would discover through a reasonable process of investigation and testing. 

Inadequate Warnings

An injured party might win a warning defect claim even if there is a warning on the product or in its documentation. This might happen, for example, if the warning was:

  • inconspicuous;
  • inadequately worded; or 
  • inadequate to protect the consumer for some other reason. 

When in doubt, consult with your lawyer.

Yes, You are Going to Need a Lawyer for This One

Since product liability claims can be scientifically complex, it is unwise to even try to assert such a claim on your own. You need an experienced product liability lawyer. Don’t worry about money, however. Any reputable products liability lawyer will charge you nothing unless they win your claim.