Determining Product Liability in Personal Injury Cases
If you purchase a consumer product and you end up injured because of a defect in the product, who is responsible?
The answer depends on many factors, however all parties in the chain of distribution may potentially be held liable in the Illinois courts. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the situation, the consumer, the retailer, distributor and/or the manufacturer may all be found liable. In fact, when it comes to product liability, one can find a case to support almost any position, so it is more important than ever to find an experienced product liability lawyer to represent you.
Consumers can protect themselves from liability by following all safety precautions in the directions and using products for their intended use at all times. When things fail, though, it is important to track down the manufacturer of the product.
According to the Illinois statute (735 ILCS 5/2-621), non-manufacturers in the chain of sales and distribution may be dismissed from a product liability action upon certifying the correct identity of the manufacturer of the product that allegedly caused the personal injury. While this may sound simple to do, it often isn’t. For example, consumers may buy an unpackaged, defective tool out of a bin in the retailer’s store. The retailer may have purchased the tools from a reseller, and the reseller may not even know the name of the manufacturer. Hunting down the information can take some time and legal posturing.
Another point in question is if the merchandise sold was altered in some way by the retailer. Sometimes, the retailer will knowingly, or unknowingly, modify a product and make it unsafe. For example, if a saw is manufactured with a guard on the blade, but most customers find it too cumbersome to use and remove it before use, a retailer may do the same on display or sale of the product out of convenience for the customer. However if the customer is injured for using the saw without the blade, the retailer who removed the blade can be found liable for the injury.
If the saw manufacturer is identified, they may shield themselves from liability by proving that a consumer was negligent or used an item improperly. However, if the manufacturer had knowledge that consumers always removed the guard, they could be held responsible for failing to manufacture the product for customer convenience. It can also be argued that the manufacturer should have produced an irremovable blade guard.
As you can see, determining personal injury liability is hardly ever clear cut, unlike the clear and present need for a competent attorney to guide you through the process. Gardi & Haught Ltd. has 15 years of experience in civil litigation for product liability cases and we would be happy to discuss your case with you.