Manufacturers, Designers, Suppliers, Distributors, Wholesalers, and Sellers of products are guarantors of the safety of the products. Products must be provided with every element necessary to make them safe for their use, and without any condition that makes it unreasonably unsafe for its intended use.
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Products subject to the law run the spectrum from food, drugs, appliances, automobiles, medical devices, medical implants, blood, tobacco, to airplanes, tools, and forklifts. Products must be provided with every element necessary to make it safe for its intended use, and without any condition that makes it unsafe for its intended use. If the product, at the time it left the defendantís control, lacked any element necessary to make it safe for its intended use, or contained any condition that made it unsafe for its intended use, then the product was defective and the defendant may be liable for all harm caused by the defect. Even a perfectly made and designed product may be defective if not accompanied by proper warnings and instructions concerning its use. A supplier must give the user or consumer any warnings and instructions of the possible risks of using the product that may be required, or that are created by the inherent limitations in the safety of such use.
Remember the first question in every personal injury claim is the question of liability; or who is right and who is wrong under the law. (See our Personal Injury Page for more on Liability). In Products Liability cases, theories of liability range from Strict Liability to Breach of Warranty to simple Negligence claims.
PENNSYLVANIA: Strict Liability In Tort
Pennsylvania Juries may be instructed that if a product, at the time it left a defendantís control, lacked any element necessary to make it safe for its intended use, or contained any condition that made it unsafe for its intended use, then the product was defective and the defendant is liable for all harm caused by the defect. Such liability is imposed even if the defendant has taken all possible care in the preparation and sale of the product. This is the rule of Strict Liability in Tort. Contributory negligence is not a defense to a Claim of Strict Liability.
PENNSYLVANIA: Breach of Express or Implied Warranties
Product warranties may be created in a variety of ways. For example, there may be express warranties written in the materials accompanying the product. Express warranties may also come from the words of the manufacturer, wholesaler, supplier, or retailer in connection with the sale, or through advertisements. Implied warranties most frequently arise by operation of law.
In circumstances where Strict Liability does not apply, defendants can be held responsible for injuries caused by unreasonably unsafe product defects. Negligence can be an act or an omission. In other words it can be doing something that should not have been done, or not doing something that should have been done.
THE NEW JERSEY PRODUCT LIABILITY ACT
The State of New Jersey passed Product Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-1 through 7, effective July 22, l987. This Act has been amended since enactment.
Through the New Jersey Product Liability Act, there is one cause of action for recovery for harm caused by a product in the State of New Jersey. That theory is, for the most part, identical to traditional notions of strict liability. However, the New Jersey Product Liability Act on its face does not apply to environmental tort actions, (N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-6), or to the breach of an express warranty, (Grzanka v. Pfiefer, 694 A.2d 295 (App. Div. 1997). Thus, some negligence actions involving products appear to have survived the Act; such as those for express warranties. Otherwise, the courts of New Jersey have interpretted the New Jersey Product Liability Act as the exclusive remedy.
In New Jersey, the manufacturer and seller of a product has the duty to make and sell a product that is reasonably fit, suitable or safe for its intended purpose. N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-2. A reasonably safe product is reasonably fit, suitable and safe for its intended or reasonably foreseeable uses. Manufacturers and sellers of products owe a duty to direct users of the product, to reasonably foreseeable users of the product, and to those who may reasonably be expected to come into contact with it. A Plaintiff must prove the product causing the harm was not reasonably safe for its intended purpose because of: (a) a manufacturing defect; (b) a failure to adequately warn or instruct; ( c) a design defect.
Punitive damages may be awarded in certain circumstances, but are excluded if a drug or device or food additive which caused the harm was subject to premarket approval or licensure by the federal Food and Drug Administration under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act or the Public Health Service Act. N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-5.
Health care providers may be subject to liability under the New Jersey Product Liability Act under certain circumstances. N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-11.
The New Jersey Products Liability Act does not alter the traditional burdens of proof in civil actions pertaining to products liability. N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-7.
All of these cases require careful review by our skilled trial counsel. Please call now for a free legal consultation.