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An Introduction to Product Liability in Alabama

Apr 30, 2018 - Personal Injury by

In the state of Alabama, as in other jurisdictions throughout the country, plaintiffs who are injured due to a defective product may pursue litigation and recover damages pursuant to product liability principles that have been established through statutory and case law.

If you have suffered injuries due to a defective product, then you have the right to sue the manufacturer and recover damages in accordance with Alabama law.  Such claims tend to be complicated and hard-fought by manufacturers seeking to discourage future lawsuits, however.  As such, it’s important that you consult with an experienced Tuscaloosa injury attorney who has the knowledge and background necessary to effectively broker a resolution to your claim.

Product defect liability can be a rather complex and intimidating subject for those who are not already familiar with such litigation.  Oftentimes, people assume that product liability claims operate quite similarly to standard negligence-based personal injury claims.  Though there are certainly some similarities, there are significant differences that are worth considering as you explore the product liability space.

A proper introduction requires a breakdown of the basic elements that constitute an Alabama product defect claim.  Let’s begin.

Foundational Elements

Product defect liability in Alabama does not require proof of negligence.  As the injured plaintiff in a product defect case, you need only prove that the defendant-manufacturer (or seller) sold you a product that was actually defective — and therefore unreasonably dangerous to you as the end-user.

For example, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, and you wish to sue the defendant-driver for damages, you will have to show that the driver acted in a manner that was negligent, reckless, or intentional, and that this conduct caused your various injuries.

On the other hand, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident due to a defective braking system, and you wish to sue the defendant-manufacturer for damages, you will not have to show that the manufacturer developed, produced, or designed the product in a manner that was negligent, reckless, or intentional.  You will only have to show that the brakes were actually defective, and this defect caused you to suffer injuries.

Sorted into its constituent elements, a product defect claim may give rise to liability if the plaintiff can prove that:

  1. He was the intended or foreseeable end-user;
  2. He was injured;
  3. The injury was caused by the defect at-issue;
  4. The defendant was engaged in the business of selling the product; and
  5. The product reached the consumer in its expected condition.

So, how does one determine that a product is defective?  In Alabama, a product is deemed defective if it is evaluated as unreasonably dangerous for its various intended and/or foreseeable uses.  If the product is unreasonably dangerous, and the defendant fails to either correct the defects at-issue (so as to rid the product of its danger) or warn end-users of the dangers that inhere in the product, then the defendant will likely be exposed to liability pursuant to Alabama product defect principles.

For example, suppose that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a mechanical failure with the airbag system.  You suffer serious injuries that were caused by the defective airbag (which did not release when it should have).  As a result of the defect, you were exposed to unreasonable dangers.  Further, the situation in which you were involved — a motor vehicle collision — is precisely the intended and foreseeable use-case for the product.  You would therefore be entitled to sue the manufacturer on the basis of a product defect claim.

Now, had the airbag failed in some other, unforeseeable capacity (i.e., if you had removed the airbag and used it as a recreational device), then you would not be entitled to sue the manufacturer and recover damages.  Manufacturers are not required to design and product their products to be safe for every possible use-case.  They need only account for intended and/or foreseeable use-cases.

Types of Defects

In the state of Alabama, as is the case elsewhere, there are three different types of product defects: manufacturing, design, and failure to warn.  These each involve slightly different assertions relating to the defectiveness of the product.  Let’s take a look.

Defect in the Manufacture of the Product

Manufacturing defects specifically relate to the particular construction of a product, at a factory or workshop.  Manufacturing defects do not have anything to do with the design of the product.  A product may be safely designed, but a mishap on the factory floor could result in an unintended defect that affects just a particular batch of products.  In fact, manufacturing defects can affect only a portion of total production.

Defect in the Design of the Product

Design defects are a bit more complicated.  In order to prove that the product was defectively designed, you will have to show that there was a reasonable alternative design that the manufacturer could have used instead.  For an alternative design to be deemed “reasonable,” the court will assess a number of factors, such as its feasibility in terms of manufacturing, whether the alternative design is safer (and how much safer it is), as well as the cost of the alternative design, the aesthetics, and more.  Design defect claims often live-and-die on the basis of testimony by industry experts.

Failure to Warn About Dangers

If a product is unreasonably dangerous for its intended and/or foreseeable uses, then the defendant may avoid liability by warning users of such dangers and by instructing them on how to avoid such dangers.  For example, if you are using a product that must be handled in a particular way to avoid cutting injuries, then the manufacturer’s inclusion of instructions and warnings detailing how to avoid such injuries will likely shield them from liability.

Contact our Tuscaloosa injury attorney today if you have questions or concerns about product liability and your rights and options under the law.

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