Articles Posted in product liability

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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.