Articles Posted in product liability

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Expert testimony is often crucial to product liability cases in Georgia. After all, most people, notably those who serve on a civil jury, lack the technical knowledge of how a given product or manufacturing process works. That is why experts are employed by plaintiffs to establish causation.

Under Georgia law, a trial judge has the discretion to allow expert testimony if three conditions are met:

  • There are “sufficient facts or data” in the record to support the expert’s opinions;
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Many single-car accidents are the result of a defective part. If that is the case, the driver may have a personal injury claim under Georgia product liability law. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11 states that a court may order a manufacturer to pay damages to any person “who suffers injury to his person or property” as the result of merchandise that “was not merchantable and reasonably suited to the use intended.”

Phillips v. Owners Insurance Company

Given that product liability cases are highly fact-specific and by their very nature revolve around a particular item, it is critical to preserve any and all physical evidence from a car accident. It may take several months or years to fully investigate the cause of the accident and the potential liability of the numerous manufacturers involved. When evidence is lost or destroyed, it can adversely affect a victim’s case.

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There is always some kind of deadline when it comes to a personal injury claim. For example, in product liability cases–i.e., a lawsuit against a manufacturer who produces a dangerous or defective item that injures someone–Georgia imposes a 10-year “statute of repose.” A statute of repose is similar to a statute of limitation. Both set a cut-off date for a plaintiff to bring his or her claim before the court.

Gaddy v. Terex Corporation

The 10-year statute of repose begins with the “first sale for use or consumption of the personal property” that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. So, let’s say you bought a car in 2008. You are later injured in an auto accident due to a defect in the car’s design. This means the statute of repose will expire in 2018.

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Dangerous and defective products injure thousands of Americans every year. Children and teenagers are especially vulnerable to poorly designed or manufactured products. Every parent’s worst nightmare is finding his or her child seriously and permanently injured due to a manufacturer’s reckless or negligent acts.

Ballinger v. Top Swords LLC

Last November there were news reports about a Kentucky teenager injured in a “freak accident” at his home. These early reports only said that the victim, a high school sophomore, “was injured when a piece of metal entered [his] forehead, causing trauma.” In fact, the trauma was so severe that the victim was in a coma for six weeks.

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Many Georgia car accidents are the result of a defect in the vehicle itself. Georgia product liability law recognizes three types of defects: manufacturing defects, design defects, and warning defects. The second group, design defects, includes any product that is not “reasonably suited to the use intended.” This means, for instance, that a product manufacturer may be held liable for damages if it selected an inappropriate or unsafe design.

Andrews v. Autoliv Japan, Ltd.

A design defect claim will only succeed if the plaintiff can prove the defendant actively participated in the design. Not every party who may have contributed some part of a vehicle is considered responsible for its design. A recent decision by a federal judge in Atlanta offers a helpful illustration.

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“Keep your eyes on the road,” is something every parent tells their teenager when teaching them how to drive. But paying attention to the road has become increasingly difficult in recent years with the advent of smartphone technology that makes it easy for people to text or chat with their friends while driving. “Distracted driving” is now considered a public safety problem on par with drunk driving.

More Than 3,000 Distracted Driving Deaths Every Year

The dangers of distracted driving are quite real. According to a recent New York Times article, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 272 teenagers were killed throughout the country in 2015 in “distraction-affected” car accidents. Overall, 3,263 out of 3,477 crash-related deaths in 2015–94%–involved distracted driving.

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Every day, millions of parents entrust the safety of their children to the cars they drive. If there is a defect in a vehicle’s manufacture or design, a parent may not learn about until it is too late and their child has paid the price. When that happens, parents understandably want to hold the vehicle manufacturer responsible.

Chrysler Group, LLC v. Walden

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed such a terrible and tragic case. In 2012, a woman was driving her 4-year-old nephew to an activity when her Jeep Grand Cherokee was rear-ended by another driver. Upon impact, the Jeep’s fuel tank exploded, setting the vehicle on fire. According to court records, the 4-year-old “was alive and conscious while the Grand Cherokee was on fire and may have lived up to a minute with flames in contact with his body” before he died.

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A company may be held liable under Georgia law for any defects in the design or manufacture of its products. Similarly, a manufacturer may be responsible if it fails to properly label or warn consumers about the known risks of using a product. Defective design and failure-to-warn claims are distinct categories of product liability, and there are cases in which a manufacturer may be liable for one and not the other.

CertainTeed Corporation v. Fletcher

Along those lines, the Supreme Court of Georgia recently held that a manufacturer of asbestos-containing products could be tried on a defective design claim, while simultaneously rejecting a failure-to-warn claim made by the same plaintiff.

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In any kind of personal injury lawsuit, it is critical for the parties to the case to preserve any evidence that may be relevant to the litigation. If a party intentionally or negligently destroys relevant evidence, this is known as spoliation, and a judge may impose sanctions, up to and including dismissing the case (if the plaintiff is at fault) or issuing a default judgment against the defendant. However, a court must also consider all relevant facts and circumstances in deciding whether or not sanctions are necessary.

Cooper Tire & Rubber Company v. Koch

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision illustrates how not all spoliation is fatal to a plaintiff’s case. This decision involves an ongoing product liability claim arising from a fatal car accident. The victim was driving his vehicle on a Georgia interstate “when his left rear tire detached,” according to court records. The vehicle “swerved out of control,” hit a guardrail, overturned “several times,” and finally came to a stop in a ditch.

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Georgia’s product liability law allows a consumer injured by a dangerous or defective product to sue the manufacturer for damages. George employs a “strict liability” standard, which means the manufacturer is responsible even if there was no evidence that it was negligent. This strict liability rule only applies to actual manufacturers, however, and not companies that merely sell or distribute a product created by a third party.

Williams v. Pacific Cycle, Inc.

A company may be considered a “seller” even if it played some role in a defective product’s design or packaging, as a recent decision by a federal appeals court in Atlanta illustrates. The plaintiff in this case suffered a severe brain injury following a bicycle accident. He accused the defendant of manufacturing the defective bicycle helmet he was wearing at the time of the accident.