When you go to your local grocery store, home improvement shop, or even a major retailer like Wal-Mart, you assume that the products they offer on their shelves are safe. Unfortunately, consumers are injured every day in the United States by defective products. While some of these defects result in widespread recalls and are reported by the major news networks, many of these defects and injuries go unreported. Sometimes, it could take months before they are removed from retailer shelves.
If you are injured by a product you purchased from a retailer, you may wonder who you can hold accountable. Can you sue that retailer for selling you the defective product? Are there other parties who might also be to blame?
Defective and hazardous products cause thousands of injuries throughout the country each year. That is why there are product liability laws in place, which hold manufacturers and third parties accountable for consumer injuries. These laws create rules about how defective products are handled, and how victims might receive compensation for those injuries.
Product liability is a term that refers to a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer being held accountable for allowing defective products to reach the consumer level. The responsibility for these defects applies to all sellers. Therefore, the primary retailer, manufacturer, and even the distributor or wholesaler might be named in your lawsuit.
What you must realize is that there are no federal-level product liability laws. Instead, every state has their unique set of liability laws and how they will proceed with holding manufacturers and third parties responsible for defective product injuries.
Connecticut allows victims to sue the “seller” of a product that injures them. Under the statute, a “product seller” is any party or entity that brings the product to the consumer for use or consumption, including the manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, and retailer. Therefore, under state law, retailers can be held accountable for injuries sustained from a defective product that they have sold under the Connecticut General Statute.
You might wonder why a retailer would be held liable for injuries from a defective product. After all, the retailer did not manufacture the product. And because it is sealed, there is no way for them to inspect that product and thoroughly ensure quality control.
Regardless, the retailer is the last link in the distribution chain. A retailer encourages customers to buy these products through promotions and marketing. The opinion of the courts state that because retailers encourage consumers to purchase, victims are justified in holding them liable for any defects.
When a defect is recognized, it is reported to and investigated by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). If CPSC feels that there is a significant risk to the consumer market, they will require the manufacturer to recall the product. Manufacturers do not physically go to every retail outlet and remove products from the shelves. Instead, they send notifications to retailers and rely on that retailer to remove the product and notify customers.
In some cases, retailers may ignore these requests or not move quickly enough to eliminate all defective models. In these instances, the CPSC will likely fine the retailer that knows, or reasonably should have known, about a recall but fails to remove and continues to sell the defective products.
Retailers, just like manufacturers, have an obligation to the consumer market to remove any products that are at risk to their customers. Failure to do so is negligent, and retailers can be named in a product liability suit for continuing to sell defective products.
Some states use what is referred to as a “sealed container” rule when it comes to product liability claims. In this instance, the consumer may be unable to sue the retailer if the product is acquired and sealed before receipt. This is because the retailer can argue that they had no opportunity to inspect the product and remove it.
While the sealed container rule might apply to some Connecticut product liability claims, do not think that means a retailer is immune from lawsuits. While it is true a retailer has no way of knowing a product is defective when they receive it from the manufacturer or distributor, they still must only sell products that are safe for their customers.
If the retailer is also the manufacturer, then they can still be held liable regardless of whether the product was acquired sealed. Many major manufacturers have store brands of consumer products. Therefore, they may be considered responsible for their store brand products.
When the manufacturer or the government initiates a recall, the retailer is required to remove that product from the shelf. This is because they now have a reasonable suspicion that the product could cause harm. Failing to remove that product is also negligent and opens the retailer up to liability claims.
Sometimes, a product is free from defect until it reaches the retailer level. For example, a retailer improperly handled a food product and left it out too long – allowing it to spoil. The food was shipped per regulations by the manufacturer or distributor, but the retailer failed to continue proper food handling procedures. A consumer purchases the spoiled food and becomes ill. Because the retailer is the cause of the product defect, they would be liable for the injuries it causes.
Sometimes a retailer knows a product is defective even when a recall has not yet been issued. For example, a shipment arrives of a product and the retailer notices that the batch has defects but chooses to sell the product regardless. They knowingly sold defective products, and if someone is injured, they would be found liable for those injuries.
While the retailer is the last line of defense, they are often not the primary cause of the defective product or your injuries.
Liability for defective products can lie with multiple parties, and many defective claims name more than one defendant. Anyone in the distribution chain can be liable for your injuries, including:
To decide who you would name as a defendant in your lawsuit, you must determine the type of defect. The type of defect will play a pivotal role is assigning fault.
Under the theory of negligence and liability, the victim must prove that the product was the direct cause of his or her injuries and that the defect in the product is what made it unsafe. There are three types of defects that apply.
If you feel that you have a case against a manufacturer or big retailer who sold you a defective product, you need to bring in a legal expert. Retailers and manufacturers have teams of attorneys ready to defend these types of cases. To increase your chances for success, you need an attorney that has experience going up against these companies and protecting the little guys.
An attorney can help you to not only receive compensation, but ensure you receive the maximum compensation available in your case. Just some of the damages you might qualify for include:
Product liability cases are complicated. It requires an intimate knowledge of product liability law and experience with taking on big companies.
Let the attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC help you with your defective product case. If a defective product injures you, our team will work to help identify all potential defendants and we will aggressively seek compensation for your injuries.