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Design defects and product liability


Although Californians expect the products they purchase to be reasonably safe, sometimes they are inherently dangerous. Sometimes defects occur during the manufacturing process, but in some cases, the defects are in the design, causing serious injury to consumers. In this post we will discuss what constitutes a design defect and when consumers may have the ability to file a product liability claim.

Design defects occur when an intentional product design causes injury to consumers. A design is considered defective if it is dangerous when put to its intended use or any reasonably foreseeable use. An example of this would be a hair dryer causing burns due to a gap in the vent causing skin and hair to overheat.

The court may also employ a cost-benefit analysis to determine what the actual cost would be if the design were not fixed. This cost includes lawsuits, medical expenses and lost wages. This cost is compared to the cost of replacing the flawed design with a safer alternative. These costs are based on two types of legal claims: strict liability and negligence. Strict liability claims focus on the product itself, while negligence claims focus on the manufacturer's conduct.

Proving liability can be challenging, and a person who has been injured by a defective product should consider seeking legal help to evaluate their options. If a product liability lawsuit is successful, the injured victim can recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, disfigurement and other damages. If the defendant's conduct was particularly egregious, the plaintiff may also be able to recover punitive damages.

Source: FindLaw, "Defects in Design," accessed July 25, 2015

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