Civil Causes of Action - Products Liability Law and Legal Definition

Products liability refers to the liability of any or all parties along the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product. This includes the manufacturer of component parts, an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner. Product liabilty suits may be brought by the consumer or someone to whom the product was loaned. While products are generally thought of as tangible personal property, products liability law has stretched that definition to include intangibles (gas), naturals (pets), real estate (house), and writings (navigational charts).

Products liability claims can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness depending on the jurisdiction within which the claim is based. In a strict liabilty theory of liability, the degree of care exercised by the manufacturer is irrelevant, as long as the product is proven to be defective, they will be held liable for the harm resulting fronm the defect.

Many states have enacted comprehensive products liability statutes. These statutory provisions can be very diverse such that the the United States Department of Commerce has promulgated a Model Uniform Products Liability Act (MUPLA) for voluntary use by the states. Claims may be based on the common law of the states or on the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). Article 2 of the UCC deals with the sales of goods and it has been adopted by most states. The most important products liability sections are the implied and express warranties of merchantibility in the sales of goods §§ 2-314 and 2-315. Products liability is derived mainly from Torts law.

In order to prevail on a product liability claim, the product complained of must be shown to be defective. There are three types of product defects that incur liability in manufacturers and suppliers: design defects, manufacturing defects, and defects in marketing. Design defects are inherent; they exist before the product is manufactured. While the item might serve its intended use, it can be unreasonably dangerous to use due to a design flaw. Manufacturing defects occur during the construction or production of the item. Only a few out of many products of the same type are flawed in this case. Defects in marketing deal with improper instructions and failures to warn consumers of latent or hidden dangers in the product.

Cigarette smokers suing tobacco companies for injuries caused by long-term smoking. Some states have settled large lawsuits against tobacoo companies and the money awarded is partly used to fund anti-smoking and awareness initiatives. Under settlements made, the tobacco companies are prevented from certain advertising practices. One jurisdiction had a Joe Camel billboard removed on the grounds that its cartoon-like drawing appealed to children. Stores may be required by state law to ask for i.d. to prove legal age before selling cigarettes. Some lawyers even argue that certain tobacco products, such as cigarettes should be illegal. The tobacco companies defend the suits on the basis that the federal warning requirement on cigarette packs precludes liability in damage suits. They further argue that since the federal legislation pre-empts more extensive state legislation, the suits filed against cigarette companies in state courts are not legal. Tobacco companies also claim that there are no scientific facts that directly draw a connection between the use of tobacco products and disease.