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Strict liability and defective products

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Posted on November 27, 2020

When we purchase a product, we trust that it is safe to use for its intended purpose. If we are injured by a defective product, we should be compensated for our damages. But who can we hold liable?

The simple answer to this question: Nearly anyone in the chain of commerce. Under the legal theory of product liability, designers, manufacturers and sellers can all be held liable when they have caused an unreasonably dangerous product to go to market, and a consumer is injured as a result.

Design, manufacture and marketing

Product liability law recognizes three major categories: defects in design, manufacture and marketing. (Illinois law generally refers to this last category as “informational defects.”)

Theoretically, at least, a person who has been injured by a faulty automobile airbag could file suit against the designer and manufacturer of the airbag, the automobile manufacturer, the seller and any other businesses in the chain of distribution. This expanded pool of possible defendants means the injured person has a stronger chance of recovering the full amount of compensation they need and deserve. It also creates a powerful incentive for everyone in the stream of commerce to produce high quality goods.

Strict liability

Another important feature of product liability law is that it doesn’t necessarily require the injured party to prove that anyone else was negligent. If the plaintiff can prove that the injury was caused by a condition of the product, and that the condition was an unreasonably dangerous one, then those responsible for designing, manufacturing and marketing the product are strictly liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

Compared to a typical personal injury lawsuit, where the plaintiff has to prove the defendant acted negligently, a case involving strict liability is much easier on the plaintiff. However, that’s not to say that product liability cases are easy. They are not.

It’s important for the injured and their families to speak to an experienced lawyer about their legal options.