If you are a local business owners, one of your biggest fears may be a lawsuit accusing you of selling defective products. And, if your customers claim that they have been harmed by your products, you want to know how to defend yourself, your reputation and your business.
California product liability
In California, we follow the rule of strict liability. This means that business owners can be held liable for product defect injuries, even if you did not do anything negligent. If someone was harmed by your product, they can sue you.
Types of product liability lawsuits
There are three bases for a product liability lawsuit: a defect in the manufacturing, defects and warning. A manufacturing defect occurs when, during the manufacturing process, the product deviated from the original specifications. A design defect occurs when the product was manufactured as designed, but the danger is derived from that intended design. Finally, a warning defect occurs when your product lacks adequate instructions or warnings to allow for the safe use of your product.
Product liability defenses
First, you can make the case that your product was not defective, but instead, the harm occurred for some other reason. For example, that someone else altered or damaged your product after you sold it, or that the customer misused the product. And, that it was one of these reasons that actually caused the harm.
Another argument also looks to the customer for liability, except it states that this defense is that the customer used your product in an unforeseeable way. In other words, since the harm was caused by an unforeseeable use, you could not have manufactured away that harm, designed it not to cause that harm or warned against that use to avoid the harm.
Another argument is that there is an inherent risk that the customer accepted. In other words, the harm that your product caused was assumed by the customer because they knew about the danger and voluntarily used it anyway.
Finally, you can argue that the harm was, at least, partially the customer’s fault. This could be as a result of their own negligence, carelessness or recklessness in using your product. And, it was this use that caused the harm, not the product itself.
In California, a products liability lawsuit is much harder on a business than in other states. However, there are defenses that you can use to safeguard your business.