Product Liability and Malfunction Laws
Product Liability and Product Malfunction laws deal with injuries caused by a “defective and unreasonably dangerous product” (Utah Courts). Each state has its own laws for product liability. Currently, there is no federal law regulating products liability claims.
Utah Code Regarding Product Liability & Malfunction Accidents
Unreasonably Dangerous – A product is liable if it is considered “unreasonably dangerous” or, in other words, so dangerous that informed customers would not want to purchase. Defect or Defective Condition – The defect making the product unreasonably dangerous has to have existed before the manufacturer sold the the product. A manufacturer can rebutt a liability claim if their design, “techniques of manufacturing, inspecting and testing the product were in conformity with government standards established for that industry” at the time that the product was made. Filing a Complaint – Utah code states that a complaining customer should not demand a dollar amount while making his or her claim but will expect a reasonable return for his or her particular situation of products liability and malfunctions. This stage of filing a complaint is also known as a “pray for damages.” Alteration or Modification After Sale – If the product in debate was altered by the customer after the product’s sale and is seen as a substantial contributing cause, then the manufacturer or seller is not liable. The manufacturer is also not at fault if the product was not used for its original purpose. Deadline for Filing a Case – A buyer has two years after his or her first issue with a product to file a claim. This also applies when the malfunction is evidenced but is not pursued by the customer with the diligence that is necessary to identify the cause. The deadline for filing a case is known as the statute of limitations. Sales Contract that Indemnifies – If the sales contract or collateral document requires the customer to indemnify the manufacturer of a product or to hold the manufacturer harmless, then a claim cannot be made. In such an instance, the claim is considered “void and unenforceable” even if a defect in the design or manufacturing caused an injury or death. Navigating these laws can be difficult because of the vague terms, which are decided by case law. In addition, there is a negative slant towards pursuing an injury claim. At Christensen & Hymas, we seek to help those who are truly in need of representation and commit our full attention to their cases. In 2010, over 64,000 people filed a federal lawsuit because they were injured by a defective and dangerous product. This means that an average of 175 people a day were injured. While only 50 people in Utah filed a lawsuit, the number of people injured was likely higher. Those who did not file a lawsuit may never held the guilty party responsible because they did not know how to do so. You may have a loved one who has been harmed or killed as a result of someone’s bad product. We created this page to help you understand your options regarding compensation for your needless suffering.
Who can be held responsible?
Anyone involved in the making or selling of the product can potentially be held responsible for injuries caused by it. This can include the business that made the parts, assembled it, transported it to the stores, or sold it. Any of these parties can be held responsible because:
- They negligently (poorly) made the product;
- The state made them strictly liable (meaning they are responsible for all injuries no matter how careful they are); or
- They gave a warranty that the product would be safe.
Types of Product Liability Laws
In most states, including Utah, there are three ways that a business can be held responsible for its product:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects, or
- Failure to warn of its dangers.
1) Design Defects
There are two ways that Utah defines a product design as defective:
- When used properly, the product caused unexpected dangers because of how it was designed.
- It qualifies under #1 and when it was designed there was a “safer alternative design” that could have reasonably been used.
To prove this in court, four things must be shown:
- the product’s design was defective;
- this “made the product unreasonably dangerous;”
- it “was present at the time the defendant [manufactured, distributed, or sold] the product; and”
- it caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
2) Manufacturing Defects
Utah defines a manufacturing defect in two ways. If the product was made different from:
- “the manufacturer’s design or specifications, or
- products from the same manufacturer that were intended to be identical.”
Proving a manufacturing defect requires the same four things as a design defect.
3) Failure to Warn
In Utah, the defendant has a duty to warn users of the dangers of his product if three things are met. If he was:
- “required to provide a warning,”
- about a danger he knew about, but the user would probably not, and
- the danger is not one people generally know about.
If the defendant had a duty to warn, Utah’s laws require three things to prove that he failed to warn users of the dangers of his product.
- He did not warn of the danger when it left his control;
- This “made the product defective and unreasonably dangerous; and”
- No warning caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
It is assumed that if the defendant did provide a warning on the product, that the plaintiff should have read it. So even if no one ever reads those warnings, you cannot use this as an excuse.
How quickly should I seek legal help if I was injured by a defective product?
Immediately. In Utah, a person only has two years after her injury to hold another person responsible for his dangerous product. It takes a long time to find all of the evidence needed to prove that a person was responsible for a defective product. Because of this, an injured person should immediately seek legal advice to know if she has a potential case against anyone involved in making or selling the product. If she does not, she runs the risk of missing the two year deadline. She will then be entirely responsible for all of her medical bills, even if her injuries were not her fault at all.
What other important information should I be aware of with Product Liability Laws?
Utah product liability laws allow similar products to be compared to the dangerous product to determine if it is defective. A plaintiff in Utah can still be held partially at fault for the injuries she received from the defective product. If she is found to be 50% or more at fault, then she cannot receive any money for the injuries she received. The defendant is not responsible for any harm caused by his product if it was modified after leaving his control in a way that caused the injury. Utah generally defines a defective product as unreasonably dangerous if the average user expected it to be less dangerous given the circumstance. Utah Product liability laws says that a warning is good enough if the warning:
- “was designed to reasonably catch the user’s attention;”
- could be understood by the user;
- explained the potential danger; and
- was obvious enough for how dangerous the product is.
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