What are Some Potential Defenses in Product Liability Cases?

If you were recently injured by a product and you plan to file a lawsuit against a liable party (such as the manufacturer or retailer of the product), you should be aware of some potential defenses that the party might bring up in court.

Potential Defenses

Defendants in products liability cases can typically raise various defenses that plaintiffs should be cognizant of before deciding whether or not to proceed to trial. Some of these defenses include the following:

  • The defective product was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. If a defendant can produce evidence that some other cause, independent of the plaintiff’s use of the product, was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury, this would damage the plaintiff’s case. Furthermore, if a defendant is able to show that the manner in which the plaintiff’s injury was caused could not have been realistically predicted (and therefore could not have been prevented by a better product design or more adequate warning), this would severely hurt the plaintiff’s case.
  • The plaintiff was negligent in using the product. Sometimes, a plaintiff’s own negligent use of a product causes his injuries. If a defendant can show that the plaintiff used the product in a negligent manner (for example, by misusing the product), this can weaken the plaintiff’s case and potentially reduce the plaintiff’s recovery.
  • The plaintiff assumed the risk by continuing to use the product after realizing it was defective. If a defendant can prove that, upon learning that the product was defective, that the plaintiff still chose to use the product and was subsequently injured by the product, the defendant cannot be held completely liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • The applicable statute of limitations period has expired. In Georgia, a plaintiff has two years from the date that his injury occurred to bring a products liability claim. If a plaintiff is alleging only property damage, he must bring a products liability claim within four years of the date the damage-causing incident occurred.
  • The product warranty was disclaimed by the defendant. Sometimes, manufacturers or retailers specifically disclaim certain warranties for their products, typically by including some conspicuous language to this effect on their products. If a plaintiff purchased the product, it is implied that by doing so, he also accepted any product disclaimers and as such, he cannot later bring a suit against the manufacturer or retailer for breach of warranty.

The product warranty was not properly acted on by the plaintiff. Sometimes when a manufacturer or retailer includes a warranty on their products, they will also provide specific stipulations that must be adhered to by the plaintiff in order for that warranty to apply. For example, one stipulation may be that a warranty is only valid for one year after the purchase date. Therefore, if a plaintiff tried to file a products liability claim based on breach of warranty for that product three years after the purchase date, his breach of warranty claim will likely be unsuccessful.

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