Product Liability

If you’ve been injured by a product — anything from matches to an airplane — you may have a liability case against the product’s manufacturers and distributors.

The Basics

There are generally three types of product liability cases: negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty. Like most laws, these vary by state and not all provisions apply in every state, so you need to talk with a lawyer to figure out what’s most appropriate for your situation.


As the name suggests, negligence cases require showing that carelessness caused your injury. First, you have to prove there was a duty to sell a safe product. That part’s not too difficult, since all individuals and companies that make and distribute consumer products are obliged to prevent injuries resulting from their products. If they sold you something, then they probably have this duty.

Next, you need to show that the defendant somehow breached that duty. Did they know, or should they have known, that the product was defective? If you can prove that, then you have your “breach of warranty.” You also need to show that you’ve been damaged. You can’t bring a claim without an injury. Merely pointing out the defect in a product you bought and saying it might hurt someone is not enough.

Finally, you have to prove that the defect, and not some unrelated illness or accident, is what caused you damage.

Strict Product Liability

If you can prove that a product is “unreasonably dangerous” — that it has a design or manufacturing defect — then you may be able to establish that the defendant is “strictly liable.” Unlike negligence cases, you may not have to prove the manufacturer knew about the danger, because even if they didn’t, they should have. (One of the main purposes of this provision is to hold manufacturers accountable for developing safe products). You still, however, have to prove that the product caused your damages.

Breach of Warranty

When you’re suing for breach of warranty, you have to prove that the manufacturer or distributor broke a written or implied promise that the goods are free from defects. Then, of course, you need to show that breach caused your injury.

There are three basic types of defects:

Manufacturing Defect: The product is well-designed but the way in which it was made makes it unsafe. Maybe the kind of plastic used was weak and that caused the plastic to break when it should have been sturdier. Prove that the defect was caused by the defendant and that the defect then caused your injuries and you’re on your way to using this approach.

Design Defect: The design of the product is unsafe, so the entire product line is unreasonably dangerous. See if there’s a better way to design the product and whether it makes sense to do so. You’ll have to show that the product’s dangers outweigh its usefulness.

Insufficient Instructions or Warnings: The manufacturer may design a product that’s perfectly safe and has no manufacturing defects, but then fails to include proper warnings or instructions for safe operation.
When you pursue a product liability case, there are many types of damages you can recover. Compensation varies from state to state, but generally you can be compensated for the cost of medical care (present and future), lost wages, physical pain and suffering, and mental suffering. In some states you can also pursue punitive damages, which punish the defendant and prevent similar deeds from occurring.

Getting Help
Pursuing a product liability case is complex and expensive. Attorney Starkes can assist you in certain areas, such as prescription drug liability cases, automobile cases or toxic torts (injuries resulting from toxins, such as asbestos or diesel fuel).

If you have any questions concerning our services, or if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please contact Attorney Starkes by phone or via email. In the Columbia area call (803) 758-2882 or outside Columbia call toll free at (866) 605-7800.

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