Articles Posted in Product Liability

Product liability claims can involve multiple theories of liability by the plaintiff – and also a variety of possible defenses by the manufacturer, wholesaler, or seller against which the plaintiff’s claims are made.

Recently, the state’s highest court was asked by a federal district court to answer certain certified questions of state law in a product liability lawsuit filed by a victim of a fiery crash in Greenville County, South Carolina, that occurred in November 2012.

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Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Generally speaking, the more a person is exposed to asbestos, the greater his or her risk of developing the disease will be. In most cases, it takes several years (sometimes even decades) after the initial exposure for the disease to manifest itself.

Although there is treatment available for mesothelioma, the majority of patients who are diagnosed with the disease will eventually die from it. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically include pain in the chest wall, shortness of breath, fluid around the lungs, fatigue, wheezing, or blood in the sputum.

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When a particular product is unreasonably dangerous or defective, a person who is injured thereby has a legal right to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, wholesaler, seller, or others in the product’s chain of distribution. Possible damages in such a lawsuit include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

Common legal theories in product liability lawsuits include strict product liability, negligence, design defects, manufacturing defects, marketing defects (such as failure to warn), and breach of warranty. In response to a product liability claim, a defendant may assert various defenses, including a plaintiff’s alleged alteration of the product or misuse of the product.

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Product liability cases can involve many different theories of liability. Typically, the issues in the case are narrowed during the litigation process, with only some claims actually being tried. It is therefore crucially important for a trial court to properly instruct the jury on the issues presented at trial.

In the recent case of Lawing v. Univar, USA, Inc., the plaintiff worked as a maintenance mechanic at a plant that produced a precious metal catalyst used in the automobile industry and refined metals from recycled materials. The mechanic’s employer purchased sodium bromate, an oxidizer needed in the refining process, from the defendant manufacturer (who sourced the product from another defendant, who obtained it from a facility in China through its subsidiary, also a defendant in the case).

In June 2004, a fire broke out in the plant, injuring the plaintiff. He brought a product liability lawsuit against the defendants, claiming that their packaging and labeling of the sodium bromate contributed to the fire. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiff’s strict liability claim, but the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision.

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Yet another verdict for the male users of Risperdal as a Philadelphia jury ordered the drug manufacturer, Johnson and Johnson to pay twenty-one (21) year old Nicholas Murray 1.75 Million Dollars. Murray alleged that the use of Risperdal caused him to develop large breasts. Murray had alleged that Janssen Pharmaceuticals, one of J&J’s subsidiaries, failed to adequately warn patients and doctors of the risk of Risperdal, including a condition known as gynecomastia which is a condition causing boys to grow excessive breast tissue.

There are over 1500 cases pending in Pennsylvania State Court alone regarding Risperdal. This case is the third to have a jury verdict. In February of this year, a Philadelphia Jury awarded 2.5 Million Dollars in damages in another such case.

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It is unsettlingly common these days to hear of a large recall of cars, trucks, or SUVs, often as part of a settlement agreement between the manufacturer of the vehicles and the federal government as a result of findings that certain product defects have resulted in numerous injuries and deaths.

Recalls, unfortunately, do little if anything to compensate those whose lives have been shattered by defective or dangerous products. To do that, the injured party or the family of a deceased consumer must file a product liability lawsuit against the maker, wholesaler, or retail seller of the vehicle. Unfortunately, such cases may take years to reach trial and even longer to make their way through the appellate process.

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