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California Products Liability Explained

an iphone with a broken charging cord

With consumer spending accounting for roughly 70% of the U.S. economy, Americans are, overwhelmingly, consumers of tangible products.

While that means we may have a penchant for purchasing material goods and services, whether for work or enjoyment, it also means we have well-defined laws that protect consumers who purchase products under the belief that they will function as intended, and not pose unreasonable risks of harm.

Unfortunately, that is not how it always works.

Whether it’s due to a defective design, defects in the manufacturing process, or failures to adequately warn consumers about potential risks associated with products, some products may be dangerous - even when used responsibly and for their intended purpose.

When a defective product causes harm, products liability can provide victims and families with the right to seek financial compensation for their damages.

Proven Products Liability Lawyers

At Biren Law Group, our attorneys have extensive experience litigating cases involving products liability – that is, the liability manufacturers, distributors, retailers have for injuries or deaths caused by their products.

Though our firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law, claims involving defective products are distinctly different from typical personal injury cases in that they can invoke unique theories of liability, require victims to satisfy different elements, and involve a wide variety of accidents and injuries.

Because they also often involve powerful corporate Defendants, defective product cases can be immensely complex and aggressively contested. However, they can be handled effectively with the help of experienced attorneys who understand California products liability laws, how to properly investigate and preserve evidence, and how to help victims prove the essential elements of their cases.

California Product Liability Law Explained

On this blog series, Biren Law Group will take a deep dive into some of the key aspects of products liability, as well as how these laws work in specific situations involving certain types of products.

Because we have handled many products liability cases over our 40+ years in practice, we’re covering topics and questions we’ve frequently encountered when representing victims and families harmed by unsafe products, and when working with referring counsel who seek our help with complex claims.

Our blogs will cover:

If you have questions about a potential products liability case anywhere in Los Angeles or Southern California, Biren Law Group is available to help. Call (310) 896-4345 or contact us online to discuss a potential case and your legal options during a FREE consultation.

What Does Product Liability Apply To?

Products liability applies to any and every product, no matter how large or small, and no matter how simple or complex. The law applies to products we use in our every-day life, as well as those used in industrial settings and the creation of other goods or services. Examples include:

  • Cars, trucks, and motor vehicles
  • Metal forming equipment, such as press brakes and punch presses
  • Commercial conveyors and robotic machinery
  • Airplanes, helicopters, and aviation devices
  • Bicycles, scooters, and hover boards
  • Farm and construction equipment, from bull dozers to excavators
  • TVs, electronics, and furniture
  • Coffee makers, blenders, and household appliances

These and other products made for the public are subject to products liability laws. This means that when those products cause harm, injured consumers and families may have the right to seek financial compensation for resulting damages by filing civil lawsuits (known as “torts”).

Products Liability: The Basics

Products liability exists to protect consumers from products which pose unreasonable risks of harm. It means manufacturers (or other parties involved in the creation and marketing of products placed on the market) are liable for damages victims suffer as a result of their defective products – including their

  • Medical expenses;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Lost income;
  • Future damages; and
  • Other economic and non-economic losses.

By imposing liability on product manufacturers, distributors, and retailors, products liability compels these parties to take necessary steps which ensure the safety of their products before releasing them to the public. It further ensures they bear the costs suffered by “injured persons who are powerless to protect themselves” when their products cause harm (Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc.).

Given the scope and vast array of consumer products which pose dangers that are not as readily apparent as, say, a Red Ryder air rifle that can “shoot your eye out,” consumers do not typically become aware of dangerous products until they’re notified of recalls by manufacturers or regulatory agencies, or until a product injures them or their loved one.

In some products cases, proving that a product is defective can be straightforward – such as in the case of recalled airbags the manufacturer and government agencies have recalled due to well-known dangers. In others, particularly those where products have yet to cause injuries or consumers have not yet been made aware of potential risks or injuries associated with a product, the burden of proving a product is defective – and subsequently that the entity or individual who made or marketed that product is liable – falls onto the Plaintiff.

In California, there are three ways Plaintiffs can pursue compensation for their losses when pursuing products liability claims:

  1. Strict Liability, which makes manufacturers liable for injuries caused by defective products (including defectively designed, manufactured, or marketed products) used by consumers in a reasonably foreseeable way. Under strict liability, Plaintiffs do not need to prove negligence.
  2. Negligence, which requires Plaintiffs to prove a Defendant (a person or an entity involved in creating or distributing a product) was negligent in the design, manufacturing, distribution, inspection, repair, or renting of a defective product.
  3. Breach of Warranty, which are claims in which Plaintiffs allege they suffered harm while using a product that failed to fulfill its intended purpose – whether the purpose was expressly stated or implied.

Comparative Fault in Product Liability Cases

Though victims harmed by defective products have grounds to pursue compensation for their damages, Defendants also have the right to defend themselves. One such defense is claiming that a Plaintiff negligently used, misused, and / or modified a product. In California, if a Plaintiff’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing their accident and injuries, any damages they are awarded can be reduced by the percentage of fault allocated to them by the jury (CACI 1207A). This is known as comparative fault.

Because products cases can have significant implications on a company’s financial future and potential liability for injuries suffered by other consumers who use their products, manufacturers and distributors are often aggressive in their attempts to deny, dispute, and minimize their liability.

At Biren Law Group, our attorneys know injured victims and families rely on full compensation to cover their damages and future needs, and work diligently to refute comparative fault arguments and other defenses brought by corporations that care more about profits than people harmed by their products.

Examples of Products Liability Cases We’ve Handled

  • $2.8 million settlement over a company’s failure to equip a heat shield into the design of its product, despite competitor units incorporating them into their designs, which would have reduced risks of burn injuries suffered by a 9-month old baby.
  • $2.5 million settlement for a student who suffered a brain injury and lasting cognitive deficits after falling from a portable amusement ride. Our firm demonstrated the ride was defective, and that ride operators were inadequately trained. (Doe v. Roe Company).
  • $2 million settlement for a group of battery plant workers who sustained lead poisoning injuries caused by a defective product (Benge v. Mac Machines).
  • $1.4 million settlement over the wrongful death of a film industry transportation coordinator who was killed when a large fan fell off the back of a truck. Our firm demonstrated that the rental company’s faulty design prevented the fan’s wheel brakes to not function property.
  • $1 million settlement for a client who became permanently impaired on one side of his body (hemiplegic) when he was run over by a speedboat propeller while riding a Wet Bike, a motorcycle that operates on water.
  • $750,000 settlement for a bicycle accident victim who suffered a severe collar bone injury as a result of a defective bicycle.
  • Confidential settlement for a salvage company worker who suffered an eye injury and brain damage when dismantling an allegedly defective wheel from an industrial loader (Richardson v. Marathon Letourneau).
  • Confidential settlement, in the millions, for two mothers who consumed adulterated Jalisco Cheese during their pregnancies, and gave birth to babies with severe birth injuries (Jalisco Cheese Cases).

Biren Law Group is a father-son legal team trusted by clients and fellow attorneys across Southern California and beyond. Backed by experience, extensive resources, and a network of professional experts, we’re capable of handling complex and high-stakes cases, while still offering the personalized support and service clients deserve. If you have a potential products case, call (310) 896-4345 or contact us for a FREE consultation.