There are three types of product defects: design defects, manufacturing defects, and warning/instruction defects. All three types of defects have to do with a product being faulty or inadequate in some way. A product can be defective because there’s an error in manufacturing, because the product is poorly designed or because the manufacturer doesn’t give sufficient warnings or instructions on how to use it correctly. Each type of product defect can be grounds for legal liability. Our Nevada product liability attorneys explain the three types of product defects.
1. Design Defects
Design defects are problems with the model of a product itself. Manufacturers are legally required to create safe products. They can’t make and sell dangerous products when the design poses an unreasonable risk of injury, particularly when there are safer designs available.
The standard for a defective design is there is a better design available at the time of manufacture, and the product is unreasonably dangerous because of the faulty design. Whether a product is defective is a matter of reasonableness.
However, once the jury determines that the design is defective, it’s a strict liability to the manufacturer for the harm done to their victims.
Examples of Design Defect Product Liability Cases
- Merck/Vioxx – Victims brought claims against Merck over the use of the painkiller Vioxx. Victims claimed Merck knew that the medicine increases the risk of heart attack and stroke and that the medication was riskier than another type of pain killer, naproxen, that was simultaneously on the market. Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle more than 27,000 claims.
- Lewy v. Remington Arms Co. Inc – A man was planning to hunt deer when his firearm accidentally fired. The bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and struck the man’s mother. As a result, she was hospitalized for a month. A jury awarded the woman compensatory damages and punitive damages on the basis of design defect product liability. The jury determined that the firing mechanism was likely to discharge when the handler released the safety. The unreasonable risk of accidental discharge amounted to defective design and legal liability for the firearms manufacturer.
2. Manufacturing Defects
A manufacturing defect occurs when a product doesn’t turn out as intended. When there is an unexpected problem or error with a singular product, it is a manufacturing defect.
Unlike design defects, a manufacturing defect isn’t part of the design itself. Instead, something goes wrong while the manufacturer is creating the product. A manufacturing defect might affect only one of the items, or there may be many similar items with the same problem.
Examples of Manufacturing Defect Product Liability
- Boeing Aircraft – In 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all Boeing 737 MAX planes. The FAA believes that some Boeing planes may have a manufacturing defect, so they have grounded all of the planes until inspectors have an opportunity to examine and remedy any defective planes. Inspectors say that mechanics ground through underlying layers of metal foil during the polishing process. The defect creates a risk of a lightning strike that can cause dual-engine power loss. The FAA is requiring inspection and repair before the manufacturing defects cause harm.
- General Motors Chevy Malibu – Gas tank explosion – A gas tank exploded in a 1979 Chevy Malibu, killing six people. The gas tank was located near the passenger area of the vehicle. A jury determined that a $4.9 billion verdict was justice for the victims.
3. Inadequate Warnings/Instructions
People can get hurt when they don’t know how to use something correctly.
When someone makes and sells a product, they have to instruct consumers on how to use it.
Providing adequate instructions is part of making and selling a safe product. A manufacturer has to provide enough information and guidance that a reasonable person can figure out how to use the product correctly. The standard is what counts as reasonable instructions.
Of course, that’s unique to each product and how complex it is.
Also, consumers have a right to know if an item is dangerous. The manufacturer has to reveal how the product could pose a risk that isn’t obvious, based on the nature of the product.
Again, the standard is what counts as reasonable warnings based on the specific dangers associated with the product.
If a person gets hurt because a product doesn’t come with sufficient warnings or instructions, the manufacturer may be financially liable for damages that result.
Examples of Inadequate Warnings/Instructions Product Liability Cases
- Bullock v. Philip Morris – Smoking and Tobacco – In 2002, plaintiff Betty Bullock sued Philip Morris. She claimed that smoking caused her cancer, and if she had received better warnings about the dangers of smoking, she would have changed her behavior. She claimed that Philip Morris undertook an active campaign in order to conceal the risks associated with smoking. A jury awarded Bullock $850,000 in compensatory damages. They also awarded her $28 billion in punitive damages. A court later reduced that amount to $28 million.
- Liebeck v. McDonald’s – Hot Coffee – Stella Liebeck went to the McDonald’s drive-thru to get a cup of coffee. She spilled the coffee in her lap and suffered severe burns. McDonald’s sold the coffee at a very high temperature, 185 degrees – a temperature so high that it was unsafe for anyone to drink. McDonald’s representatives also knew that coffee served at 185 degrees could cause severe burns. A jury awarded Liebeck compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Your Rights and Product Liability Cases
If you’re the victim of any type of product defect, you may be able to collect financial compensation.
Our experienced product liability attorneys will prepare your case to get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact our law offices today for your free consultation to begin your case.