Products Liability: A Fancy Way of Saying a Dangerous Product Caused You Harm

Products liability is taught in law school and discussed at legal seminars across South Carolina. Even though I am an attorney, I have never liked the term “products liability,” and certainly do not use it more than necessary when speaking with clients.

While the law surrounding defective products is complex, the takeaway is simple: if a product causes you harm, and you can prove it should not have, you are entitled to compensation. For instance, if the blade on a power saw comes unhinged and injures you even though you were following instructions, an element of the power saw is clearly unsafe, making the product's manufacturer and seller responsible for your harm.

In South Carolina, we must prove one of three things to succeed in a products liability case. They are as follows:

1. Manufacturing defect

Manufacturing defects occur when a product does not work the way it was intended. These problems might develop while a product is on the assembly line. Consider the power saw example above. The blade may have come off because someone on the assembly line forgot to tighten a screw or fasten a bolt. This act of negligence created a manufacturing defect, which in turn resulted in an unsafe product. The manufacturer would therefore be liable for any accident caused by the dangerous saw. This is what “products liability” is all about – holding the party who gave you the unreasonably dangerous product responsible for your injury.

2. Design defect

Design defects happen when a product is manufactured exactly as planned, but the design itself is flawed. You may have seen the movies or remember the cases about exploding cars. These cases involved design defects, where gas tanks could blow up if a car was struck a certain way. Similarly, there are current suits involving medical products, such as artificial hips, where it has been alleged that the products have design defects. In sum, if a product is unreasonably dangerous because its design is inherently flawed, any harm caused by the product may be grounds for suit.

3. Defective warning

Defective warnings can also provide the basis for a products liability suit. Do you remember the last time you or a family member bought a lawn mower? All lawn mowers come with warnings. Some warnings are obvious: “Keep Hands & Feet Away From Moving Blade.” However, what if the lawn mower you purchased presented dangers that were not so obvious? In these situations, the manufacturer and seller must provide you with adequate warnings. When they fail do to so, they could be liable.

Product defect cases are among the most nuanced and challenging you can face. Nonetheless, at its core, this area of law is all about whether some “thing” is unreasonably dangerous. When a dangerous product causes injury, the manufacturer, seller, and everyone in the supply chain could be held liable.

Rather than trying to navigate a legal maze or identify all potential defendants by yourself, receive a free consultation to learn more about your right to fair compensation. Much like a doctor, the sooner I get involved, the more I may be able to help. To speak with me, call my Columbia, SC office today at 803-790-2800.