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What is product liability?

Product liability occurs when a manufacturer or anyone in the supply chain for a product is found liable for damages that are caused by a product. According to Cornell University's law library, plaintiffs must prove that a defect exists as part of the basis for a product liability lawsuit.

A liability decisions doesn't require that the product itself is defective or dangerous, although that is one type of liability case. Defects in marketing are also cause for a personal injury claim if manufacturer advertising claims things that aren't true about the product. For example, if a manufacturer fails to provide an accurate list of ingredients, damages that occur because of unknown ingredients could be cause for compensation.

Defective products usually occur either in the manufacturing process or because of a flawed design. A flawed design usually impacts all products in a line and may not be realized until the defective issue causes one or more problems. Some examples of design flaws include toys with small parts that can break off and cause choking hazards or car parts that malfunction due to poor engineering.

Manufacturing defects, on the other hand, can occur when a design is without issue. These defects happen during the process of making the product and can be a result of inappropriate machine maintenance, human error or a number of other things. Typically, manufacturing defects only impact one or a few products; they can also impact an entire lot of products.

Individuals who experience damages or injury because of any type of defect may have the grounds for personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer or retailer. When a number of people have experienced the same injuries for the same reason, the claims may be certified as a class action lawsuit.

Source: Cornell University, "Products liability law: an overview" Oct. 24, 2014

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