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Product liability is an area of law in which those who make consumer products available to society are held legally responsible for injuries and damages caused by those products. This includes businesses that manufacture, distribute, supply or otherwise make the product available to the public. Product liability therefore affects businesses at every stage of the production and sale process, including manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and retailers.
Companies must provide proper warning if any part of their product is unsafe or if using the product in a certain way could be hazardous to the user’s safety or health. Many of the injuries or deaths that are the result of defective products could have been avoided if manufacturers designed better products and manufactures and sellers of those products followed the law and properly warned users of product dangers.
A product has a safety defect if its safety is not what the community is entitled to expect. While the level of safety will vary, it is ultimately for the court to determine whether a product has a safety defect. There are various factors the court will take into account when making its determination, including:
A good is not necessarily considered “safe” just because it complies with mandatory requirements.
Expected levels of safety differ for older products because they cannot be expected to be as safe as brand new products. Similarly, older models of products would not necessarily be considered defective simply because more recent models have improved safety features.
One thing to consider is whether a third party made any adjustments and / or modifications to the product, which the manufacturer did not specifically approve. In that case if a defect in the product is created by the modification, there likely will be no liability on the part of the manufacturer. Similarly if the product is sued in a way it was not intended to be used, liability will be an issue. Even then it may have been appropriate for the product to contain a warning. The key issue is foreseeability and whether the manufacturer did everything reasonable to lower foreseeable risks of harm.
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