Sorry, I Don’t Speak Legalese: Product Liability

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Product liability is the legal obligation a manufacturer or seller is held to for producing or selling a faulty product.

People who suffer damages as a result of defective products can file a claim under the Consumer Protection Act, for negligence or for breach of contract.

Filing a product liability claim

When filing a claim, the claimant must prove the elements of the claim such as:

• The product was defective and there is a causal link between the defect and the damage suffered

•  A defendant violated his duty of care

•  That the defendant breached a contractual term.

It’s important to have the relevant evidence, as there are defences that the defendant can make to exclude themself from liability.

Under consumer protection law, for example, the defendant can claim this defect did not exist when the product was sold or that it was impossible to predict the defect using the manufacture’s knowledge at that time.

For claims for negligence or breach of contract, the defendant may use other defences:

• There wasn’t a causal link

• The claimant’s prior acceptant of liability

• Improper use of the product or that the defendants did not necessarily have a duty of care in the first place.

Who is responsible for the defective product or against whom can we sue?

Liability may lie, individually or jointly, with the companies that manufacture, import, distribute, or sell the products in the United Kingdom.

These companies have the obligation to ensure that the products are safe. Tf they realise that they are not, they must report it and carry out corrective actions.

They can correct it by, for example, withdrawing the product from the market, ordering recalls for exchange or repair, refunding the purchase price.

What kind of compensation do you get in product liability claims?

If the actions of those responsible were negligent, the claimant has the right to file a lawsuit to pursue damages for their injuries or losses.

The responsible party must compensate the claimant for the damage caused so that he/she is restored to the position in which he would have been if the damage had never occurred.

In these types of claims, punitive damages are generally not awarded.

How long does it take to resolve a product liability case?

From start to finish, litigation of this type can last from one to several years.

This will depend on different factors, such as:

• The complexity of the case

• The number of parties involved

• Whether the parties reach an agreement or not, etc.

Most of these cases are resolved by agreement, in order to avoid incurring the costs involved in litigation.

Often, the claim is against multinational corporations and, in these instances, claimants are often required to file their case in the country of purchase and a successful litigation in one country is viewed favourably by judges in other countries.

Real-world examples of product liability claims

Mercedes Benz has settled in the USA for $2 billion for misleading their consumers about the levels of diesel emissions their vehicles released. This precedent is expected to weigh positively for customers seeking similar claims in the United Kingdom.

At PGMBM, we are currently litigating against several cases of Consumer Product Liability, including the current diesel emissions scandal. You can read more about all our product liability cases via the PGMBM website.

If you are affected by any of these cases, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Author: Carmen Garcia Ramirez, Paralegal 

PGMBM (a trading name of Excello Law Limited) – SRA License Number 512898

Excello Law is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and complies with the Solicitors Code of Conduct, a copy of which can be located here.

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