Site Menu

Product Liability in Erie, PA - Personal Injury Lawyers 

Every day we use products that have been mass produced.  From hairspray to heavy equipment, we are in constant contact with items that we hope will make our lives simpler and more productive. But sometimes those products are dangerous, and cause injuries, even when they are being used as intended by the manufacturer. When they do, the law provides certain rights. At Elderkin Law Firm in Erie, we handle a whole variety of product liability cases.
 

Contact our law firm if you if you have been injured as the result of defects in any of the following products:

  • Motor vehicles

  • Drugs such as Vioxx and Phen-Phen

  • Lawn and garden equipment

  • Heavy machinery such as tractors, bulldozers, and cranes

  • Medical devices such as stents, pacemakers, joint replacements

  • Farm equipment

  • Industrial machinery used on assembly lines

  • Recreational vehicles such as JetSkis, ATVs, and motorboats

Whether your injuries were caused by a consumer product or a complicated piece of machinery, there’s no case too complicated for our experienced attorneys to handle. If a defective product has caused you or a loved one an injury or a wrongful death, our personal injury attorneys will help you receive the compensation you deserve to put your lives back together. Call our Erie, PA offices at 814-456-4000, send us an email at contact@elderkinlaw.com, or fill out one of the contact forms. Talk to us, we can help.   

 

Who is responsible when a product causes an injury?

It could be anybody involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of the product.

 

Because of the way we do business in today's complex society, there is often a big disconnect between the manufacturer of the product and the person who ultimately uses it. Long gone are the days when you bought products directly from the people who made them. And most products we use are mass-produced, meaning they are manufactured in bulk for use by thousands -- or even millions -- of people across the country, or even across the world. And many of them are not even made in this country, or even this part of the world.  In today's world, a product may be manufactured in China, sold to a Japanese entrepreneur who, in turn, markets the product to American wholesalers, who then sell it to a retailer (say, your local department store).  Finally, that retailer sells the product to you, the retail customer. In that case, you have at least three or four different parties who are involved in the chain of getting that product from manufacture into your hands. Pennsylvania law provides that, generally speaking, everyone who is in that chain of manufacture and distribution, from the manufacturer (or even a component part maker, sometimes) to the retailer who sells it to you, is responsible for that product in the condition that it reaches you. If that product reaches you lacking any element necessary to make it safe for its intended use, and as a result, causes you personal injury, you may recover for the damages and losses that you sustain.

If I no longer have the tool or product that has injured me, can I still bring the case to you?

Yes, but DO be careful what you do with the product. 

 

Sometimes the very happening of the event that causes the injury will involve total or partial destruction of the product itself. For example, if a car is defective and it explodes or burns, there’s not going to be much left to look at except the charred wreckage. On the other hand, sometimes the injury-producing incident doesn't harm the product at all (for example, a seatbelt that releases prematurely, allowing a passenger to be thrown from the vehicle may not, itself, be damaged in the incident). The loss of the particular product that caused your injury does not necessarily mean the end of your claim. Rather, the relative importance of having the exact product that injured you depends upon type of claim you wish to make. Some product liability claims, called "design defect" claims, are based upon the idea that the very design of the product (the way it was intended to be made) was dangerous.  Other product liability claims, called "manufacturing defect" claims, assert that the product was dangerous because it was badly made (that is, it was not made the way the manufacturer designed it or intended it to be made).  It is much more important to have the actual product that caused you injury if you are making a manufacturing defect claim, because you will need to show how this particular product deviated from the manufacturer's design, and was thus made dangerous.  In such cases, if you don’t have the product to test to see what was wrong with it, it might make it very difficult for you to prove why it malfunctioned, and why it was dangerous in the condition in which it was provided to you. It is always good to preserve the product if possible so that it can be inspected to see what’s wrong with it. Keep it in as similar a condition as possible to the condition it was in when it injured you. 

 

The other reason you want to maintain the condition of the product is that if you intentionally alter or destroy the product without giving the manufacturer (or others against whom you have made a claim) the opportunity to see and, perhaps, test it, you may lose your right to make your claim or to offer evidence about the condition of the product that's no longer available. You need to be careful; the law allows both sides of any claim to engage in proper investigation of what happened, and if you’ve somehow allowed the evidence to be destroyed before the other side gets a chance to look at it, you may be prevented from bringing your case. You need to keep the product as intact as possible after the incident.

What kind of compensation or damages are allowed in a products liability case?

In a products liability claim, you are entitled to monetary damages that will fully compensate you for consequences of the personal injuries you have sustained. The primary goal of awarding money damages in a products liabilitry case is to restore the injured person as nearly as possible to the position he or she would have been in if the defective product had never caused the injury.  These money damages are known as "compensatory damages", because they compensate the injured person for the losses sustained. 

 

There are two general types of compensatory damages, "special damages" and "general damages."  Special damages are actual out-of-pocket losses, that can be specifically calculated.  For example, in a typical products liability case, the injured party will undergo medical treatment, and sometimes lose time from work.  As a result, that person will have to pay medical bills that would not have been incurred if the product had not caused the injury.  That person may also have to take time off from work, or lose vacation days, while recovering from the injuries.  The cost of the medical treatments and the amount of income lost from work can be readily calculated.  If they are a direct result of the injuries caused by the defective product, the injured party is entitled to be repaid these amounts.  Sometimes medical bills are paid by a health insurance policy.  This does not mean that the injured party cannot recover them in the products liability claim, but they may have to be paid back to the insurer that paid the bills in the first place.  This can be a complicated part of the products liability claim process, and is best left to an attorney.  Failing to repay a public or private health insurer can cause big problems down the road to someone who receives a settlement or cash award as a result of a products liability claim.  There are other categories of special damages, including compensation for reasonably-anticipated future medical treatment, replacement household services, work loss or loss of earning capacity.  These future damages can be substantial if the injuries are long-lasting or permanent.

 

"General damages" are intangible losses, and are not easily calculated. These damages include compensation for the injured party's physical or emotional pain and suffering, disfigurement, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life and similar intangible, but very real, losses. Also, the spouse (and in some cases, the children or parents) of an injured party may be entitled to compensaton for the losses they have suffered as a result of the injuries to their loved one.  Because there is no "bill" for these losses, the value of these compensatory damages may be hard to determine.  Ultimately, that value is whatever a jury would be likely to allow if presented with the facts of the case and properly instructed in the law.

 

In rare cases, merely compensting the injured person is not enough to satisfy justice.  In these cases, if the conduct of the wrongdoing party is sufficiently outrageous, the court may award "punitive damages", which are designed to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages are not usually awarded except in cases wherein the product manufacturer or seller acts with malice or intentionality (for example, where a manufacturer knows its product has a deadly defect, but decides that it is cheaper to continue to sell it, and simply "pay off" any personal injury or wrongful death claims that may arise, than to correct the design of the product).

What type of defects are there, and how is a product considered defective?

There are generally three kinds of defects that form the basis of products liability claims: design defects, manufacturing defects and warning defects.

 

In a design defect case, the claim is that the product was designed badly, and that every one of those products that comes off the assembly line has the same defect in it because that’s the way it was intended to be made. For example, if a product uses a flame that is very close to a flammable part of the product, with no protective element between them and, as a result, the product catches fire and injures the user, that’s a design defect.

 

A manufacturing defect is where a particular product was made in such a way that it deviated from the design, and the deviation made it dangerous.  For example, let's assume again that a product has a flame and a flammable part, but this time the design properly calls for an asbestos sheet to separate the flammable part from the flame.  When the part is going down the assembly line, the assembler forgets to insert the asbestos in one or two of the products.  Those products later catch fire while being used as intended.  The failure to install the asbsetos sheet resulted in a manufacturing defect in products that were otherwise properly designed. 

 

Finally, some products cannot be made safe even for their intended use.  In those cases, a warning may be necessary to protect the user from the dangerous characteristics of the product.  If the product fails to contain proper warnings, and the user is injured as a result, that may give rise to a "warning defect" case. 

If I was seriously injured by a tool I was using, can I receive compensation from the manufacturer?

Maybe.  It depends upon a number of factors, including why and how you were injured. 

 

In general, if you were using the tool as intended, and you were injured by it as a result of some dangerous characteristic it had, you are entitled to be compensated for your losses.  If, on the other hand, you changed or altered the condition of the tool, or used it for a purpose other than that for which it was designed, you might not be able to bring a claim successfully.  For example, if you were using the handle of a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, and a piece of the handle hit you in the eye, you might be precluded from bringing a claim, because you were using the screwdriver as a hammer.  Or, if you welded an additional weight to the head of a hammer, and while hammering the nail, the welded piece came off and hit you in the face, you may not be able to recover money damages, because you changed the product from the way it was originally designed and sold to you. 

 

The question of whether a particular injury is compensable as a product liability claim can be a tricky one.  If you have any questions, you should talk to an attorney to see if you have a claim. Elderkin attorneys are always ready to speak to you about the specific facts of your case, and evaluate any claim you may have.

Untitled Document