Maryland Product Liability
Product liability is that part of the law that deals with things that are defective for some reason. The obligation on the party making the claim is to prove (1) the product was defective; (2) the product was sold by another party; and (3) the defect caused the injury. There are many subsets of product liability claims, including defective medical devices, defective pharmaceutical drugs, asbestos, and more.
DEADLINE TO FILE A MARYLAND PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIM
The rules on deadlines to file a claim are complicated and there are many exceptions. However, as a general rule, product liability claims must be brought within three years of the time the injured party knew or should have known of the injury, the likely cause, and manufacturer negligence or product defect.
Product liability claims based on breach of warranty must be filed within four years from the sale of the product, though that deadline can be shortened by as much as three years by the agreement of sale.
TYPES OF PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIMS
Strict liability basically means “if you create a product that hurts people, you are responsible for the injury.” Unlike negligence cases (think automobile collisions, medical malpractice, slip-and-falls), it is not necessary to show that a manufacturer did something wrong. There’s no need to prove that they knew their children’s toys contained lead before shipping them out for Christmas; no need to show that they knowingly hired an engineering school drop-out to design the widget; no need to demonstrate that they skipped the entire quality control process. There are four things a strict liability plaintiff must prove:
- The product was defective when it was sold;
- The product was unreasonably dangerous;
- The defect was a cause of the injuries; and
- The product was expected to and did reach the consumer without substantial change in its condition.
Defects come in two types. The first, a manufacturing defect, is where the product was different from the manufacturer’s specifications. The second, a design defect, is where a product fails to meet the reasonable expectations of a consumer because it is defective and unreasonably dangerous.
One specific type of design defect claim is crashworthiness, which is essentially a claim that a vehicle was not as safe as it was supposed to be. In such a claim it is irrelevant what the cause of the collision was—the primary area of analysis is whether the car defect resulted in enhanced injuries.
Like all negligence claims, a product liability plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty; that the defendant breached that duty; that the plaintiff was injured; and that the breach caused that injury. To prove this, a plaintiff may show:
- Negligent failure to warn of dangerous product attributes
- Negligent failure to provide adequate instructions
- Negligent design/manufacture
Most product liability lawsuits can be brought under a strict liability theory, but many jurors find it difficult to hold a company responsible simply because a product is defective. We find that in most cases, it is best to bring a negligence claim jointly with the strict liability claim. Faced with evidence that the manufacturer did something wrong, a jury is more likely to rule for the injured plaintiff.
Breach of Warranty
There are three types of breach of warranty claims:
- Breach of express warranty (the product failed to do something the manufacturer said it would)
- Breach of implied warranty of merchantability (the product is not fit for its ordinary purpose)
- Breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose (the product fails to do something that the seller knew the buyer was purchasing it for)
Failure to Warn
Marylanders may bring a cause of action for failure to warn under the theories of negligence, strict liability, and breach of implied warranty. Under this cause of action, the injured plaintiff alleges that the product had no warnings or insufficient warnings. A manufacturer must provide warnings of hidden (not obvious) dangers inherent in the product for all reasonably foreseeable uses.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE A MARYLAND PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIM
First, save the product and everything related to it, if you can. Whether it is medication (and the pill bottle, the purchase receipt and the doctor’s prescription), the space heater, the uneaten portion of food or anything else, if you can maintain it in a safe place where it won’t be altered or harmed, you will have a better chance of proving your claim.
Second, contact us at 1-800-553-8082 or online for a free discussion about whether you have a product liability case.
Some Product Liability Cases we are Handling: