Articles Posted in product liability

Pressure cookers were first developed in the 17th century. They create an airtight environment where steam pressure raises the boiling point of water, allowing food to cook much faster than normal. Of course, the buildup of pressure can lead to an explosion if the cooker itself is somehow defective.

Williams v. Tristar Products, Inc.

In an ongoing federal lawsuit, Williams v. Tristar Products, Inc., a Georgia woman alleges that a defective pressure cooker exploded in her home, causing her severe second-degree burns. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was using a PC-WAL1/TRI-6 pressure cooker, which had been a Christmas gift from her mother. The plaintiff said she had used the pressure cooker on three previous occasions without incident, and that she always followed the manufacturer’s directions.

In product liability cases, defendants will often try and shift blame for any injuries onto the plaintiff. For example, a manufacturer of an allegedly defective product will say it was the plaintiff’s carelessness that caused his accident, rather than any negligence on the manufacturer’s part.

Thurmond v. Federal Signal Corporation

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta recently threw out a product liability lawsuit on just that basis. The plaintiff in the case of Thurmond v. Federal Signal Corporation worked for the City of Loganville, Georgia. The plaintiff and one of his coworkers were tasked with repairing a sewer cleaner known as the Vactor 2013, which is manufactured by the defendant.

When someone is injured by a dangerous or defective product, Georgia law permits the victim to bring a personal injury claim against not only the product’s manufacturer, but in some cases against the retailer that sold the product, as well. More precisely, the seller can be held responsible if the evidence shows it had “actual or constructive knowledge that the product was unreasonably dangerous at the time of sale.”

Gomez v. Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc.

To give an illustration of how the law is applied in practice, here is a recent decision from a federal judge in Athens, Georgia, in an ongoing seller liability case. This lawsuit centers on an allegedly defective plastic gas can purchased from a Harbor Freight store in Valdosta in 2012. The plaintiffs are not the original purchaser, but rather her neighbors.

When your child is seriously injured due to an apparently defective consumer product, you rightfully want to seek justice against the companies responsible for bringing the dangerous item to market. Under Georgia law, there are a number of possible legal theories to support a product liability claim. Of course, the facts of each particular case will dictate which theories are applicable.

Morgan v. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc.

For example, a federal judge in Gainesville recently denied most of a motion to dismiss a product liability lawsuit arising from injuries sustained by a minor child due to an allegedly defective bow-and-arrow set. According to the plaintiffs, the child’s parents, they purchased the set from a popular sporting goods retailer in Gainesville. The lawsuit alleges that a retail salesperson “assisted” the plaintiffs in selecting the particular bow-and-arrow set at issue.

Many Georgia workers are injured on the job due to defective equipment. While workers’ compensation covers an employer’s liability for such accidents, the injured worker may still file a civil lawsuit against the third-party manufacturers who were responsible for designing or manufacturing the equipment.

Vazquez v. Raymond Corporation

For example, a federal judge in Gainesville, Georgia, recently rejected an attempt to dismiss a product liability claim filed by a local forklift operator. In July 2016, the plaintiff was using a forklift rented by his employer to move a pallet of tires in a warehouse. At some point, the plaintiff “lost control of the forklift and crashed into a metal column,” which ended up crushing his left foot, according to court records.

Georgia law holds manufacturers liable if they fail to exercise “reasonable care” when designing or producing its products. In practical terms, this does not mean the product must be 100% safe. Rather, it must be “reasonably safe for intended or foreseeable uses.”

Woods v. ARE Accessories, LLC

When is a product’s use “foreseeable” to the manufacturer? That is a question the Georgia Court of Appeals recently confronted in a product liability case involving a truck cap. The defendant in this case is a popular manufacturer of truck caps–that is, the shells that fit over the flatbed of a pickup truck.

Car accidents may have many causes. Oftentimes it is simply negligence on the part of the driver. There may also be a defect in the vehicle itself, either as the result of a faulty part used during the manufacturing process or an inadequate repair. If there was, in fact, a problem with the car, the driver may not be liable for any damages sustained by third parties.

Almassur v. Mezquital

On March 15, the Georgia Court of Appeals overturned a $30 million jury verdict in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a 2012 car accident in Forsyth County. The appellate court said the trial judge committed a significant error in refusing to allow a jury instruction proposed by the defense. That instruction, in turn, addressed whether the defendant driver’s actions on the day of the accident were “unknowing and unintentional.”

When it comes to product liability, Georgia courts have long held that a manufacturer can be held responsible for its “failure to warn” customers about potentially harmful defects that it knew about (or should have known about). This duty extends to any “nonobvious foreseeable danger” arising from the normal use of a given product. In other words, a manufacturer has no duty to warn you of the risks of using its product in something other than its intended manner.

Reichwaldt v. General Motors LLC

Does this duty to warn extend to third parties–i.e., individuals other than the actual customers–who may be harmed by the normal use of the product? In 2016 we discussed a Georgia Supreme Court decision, Certainteed Corporation v. Fletcher, involving a pipe manufacturer whose products contained asbestos. In that case, a woman developed mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos dust from clothing worn by her father, who worked with the defendant’s pipes. The Supreme Court said it was “disinclined” to hold that the manufacturer “owed a duty to warn third parties based on the fact that, in this case, such a warning may have been effective.”

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;

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.