Articles Tagged with product liability

Motorcycle accidents often leave the victim with devastating injuries. So, when the accident is even partially the result of a defect in the design or production of the motorcycle itself, the manufacturer may be liable for damages under Georgia law. However, a judge or jury may decide that the motorcyclist was also partially responsible and reduce the manufacturer’s liability accordingly.

Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. v. Johns

This is precisely what happened in a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals, Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. v. Johns. A jury determined that the manufacturer of a motorcycle was 51% responsible for an accident that injured the plaintiff. Both sides appealed the verdict for different reasons, but the appeals court declined to second-guess the jury.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.