When you buy a new product, you expect it to be safe for use and for the manufacturer to provide instructions and any applicable warnings for use. Dangerous and defective products can cause severe injury, devastating victims and their families; and sometimes injuries are fatal. Companies who design, build, and sell new products have a legal obligation to make sure their products are safe through testing and quality control processes during manufacturing.
Even when companies follow through, a faulty design, damage during shipping, or modifications made by wholesalers or retailers can lead to a defective product which causes harm to a consumer.According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), millions of people visit emergency rooms across the United States each year as a result of product-related injuries. If you, your child, or another family member has suffered injuries caused by a defective product, Florida law permits you to seek damages in civil court.
Contact the skilled product liability lawyers at Viles & Beckman in Fort Myers at 239-334-3933 for a free case review and to learn how we can help you after an injury from a defective product.
Advocating for the Injured Since 1995
The product liability attorneys at Viles & Beckman have been committed to helping the injured recover compensation they deserve since 1995. With more than 40 years of experience negotiating, settling, and litigating personal injury cases, including product liability cases, Viles & Beckman’s legal team has recovered millions of dollars of damages for their clients.
We cannot guarantee results in any particular case because each has its own circumstances and defining characteristics; but we can guarantee we will aggressively advocate for you, help you hold negligent companies accountable, and diligently pursue the best outcome for your individual situation.
Commonly Reported Defective Products
The CPSC gathers and analyzes data on defective products and product-related injuries across the United States. It’s impossible to list the thousands of defective products, but you can get an idea of commonly reported defective products by looking at the CPSC product groupings. The following product groupings contain several categories of items which have been reported defective to the CPSC:
- Child nursery equipment
- Sports and recreation equipment
- Home communication and entertainment
- Personal use items
- Household containers
- Yard and garden equipment
- Home workshop equipment
- Home maintenance
- General household appliances
- Heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment
- Home furnishings and fixtures
- Home structures and construction materials
- Miscellaneous items such as fireworks, gasoline, and elevators
Large motorized items might also be defective or have defective components. The CPSC tracks things like scooters and mopeds, but they don’t collect data on automobiles, trucks, and boats. Although motor vehicle defects vary widely, defective airbags and defective tires remain commonplace.
What Makes a Product Defective?
On a rudimentary level, you understand a defective product is one which doesn’t work; but, when lawyers and courts talk about defective products they refer to specific legal definitions. Like most other states, Florida recognizes three main types of product defects which can lead to a lawsuit:
- Design defects occur in the early stages of product development. When designers conceptually work on a new product it seems safe and a great idea to fill a need in the market place, but in fact, the design is unreasonably dangerous. In product liability suits, a product must pass the consumer-expectation test, or it is defective. Courts assess whether a product “performs as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or when used in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer.” In some situations, Florida courts also use a risk/benefit test to determine a design defect. This test asks whether the risk of danger from a product design is greater than benefits from using the product.
- Manufacturing defects occur after the design phase of a product, when companies assemble or construct the product. In these cases, the design was safe, but the execution of the design created a defect making the product more dangerous than intended. Manufacturing defects can occur as a result of using cheap materials, the wrong materials, improper construction, poor assembly, and mistakes, such as missing pieces, bad welds, and damaged materials. When products with manufacturing defects end up in the hands of a consumer, it’s often a result of poor quality control at the manufacturing facility.
- Information defects include a broad range of defects related to marketing and instructions associated with a product. Manufacturers have a legal responsibility to warn consumers about hazardous aspects of their product, and when applicable, they must provide instructions for use. When companies fail to provide instructions, improperly label their products, or do not provide adequate warnings to consumers, their products have an information defect. Specifically, Florida courts find products “unreasonably dangerous, if injury from a product could have been prevented by providing a warning or instructions.
Liability in a Product Liability Lawsuit?
Under Florida law, a product liability action occurs when harm, injury, or death is “caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation, or assembly of a product.” Any party involved in a product’s chain of distribution might be negligent or strictly liable for damages related to a defect. Parties who you might name in a product liability lawsuit include:
1. Product Manufacturer
Global companies headquartered in the United States as well as startup companies operating out of garages can face liability from a defective product that causes an injury. Manufacturers of parts which make up larger items such as automobiles, machinery, and boats might also be liable in a lawsuit.
2. Product Wholesaler or Distributor
Product distributors might be liable in a lawsuit if they knowingly sell defective products to other companies, make defective modifications to the product, or cause damage that leads to a defect.
When the manufacturer contracts a third party to ship a product, damage might occur during a pick-up, transport, and delivery. If damage leads to a defect that causes injury or death to a consumer, a third-party shipping company might face a product liability lawsuit.
Whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store, consumers who purchase new products expect items to be safe for use. If retailers knowingly sell defective products, make false claims, or provide misleading testimonials about the safety and use of a product, they might be liable for damages even though they didn’t design or manufacture a product.
Seeking Compensation in Fort Myers Product Liability Suits
If you have sustained an injury or lost a loved one because of a defective product, Florida law permits you to seek damages related to your injuries in civil court. Florida courts award compensatory and punitive damages in personal injury cases, but punitive damages are reserved for cases involving gross negligence. For example, if a manufacturer knowingly distributes and sells a defective product and tries to cover it up, it’s highly likely a Florida court will award punitive damages for injury or death. Compensatory damages are intended to financially compensate victims for losses incurred as a result of their injury. You might recover these compensatory damages if a court rules in your favor:
- Medical expenses including ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, surgery, radiology, prescription medication, and aftercare
- Future medical treatment when a defective product causes a permanent injury or condition requiring lifelong medical care, or causes a severe injury requiring extensive recovery
- Rehabilitation expenses for physical therapy or other types of specialties, as well as costs for assistive devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, and prosthetics
- Lost wages for missing work due to injury, hospitalization, and recovery
- Lost earning capacity for severe injuries which prevent an injured person from returning to their job or forces them to reduce hours or change professions
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Any other non-economic loss which might apply to a particular injury
If a court awards punitive damages to a plaintiff in a Florida product liability case, they must comply with laws capping the amount punitive damages:
- Maximum punitive damages cannot be more than three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
- In extreme cases, Florida courts have the authority to award maximum punitive damages four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2,000,000, whichever is greater.
Defense Tactics in Florida Product Liability Lawsuits
Florida courts apply comparative fault to personal injury suits, including those involving defective products. Comparative fault assesses the degree to which an injured plaintiff might have contributed to their injuries. Once the court determines the defendant was negligent, breached a warranty, or is strictly liable for damages, they will assign a percentage portion of fault to each party in a lawsuit.
If the plaintiff is partially at fault, the court reduces their award according to the percentage fault. For example, if you sue for $500,000 in damages and the court finds you were ten percent at fault, they will reduce your award to $450,000. If you or a loved one has been injured while using a product, drug, or device in Florida, our Fort Myers products liability lawyers can help. Statutory time limits apply, so please contact us right away.Defense lawyers and insurance companies in product liability suits use comparative fault to shift the blame to the plaintiff and avoid financial liability.
Some arguments the defense might make include:
- The plaintiff was injured because they used the product incorrectly.
- The plaintiff was injured because they modified the product after they purchased it.
- The plaintiff was injured because they didn’t follow instructions or read warnings included with the product.
- The plaintiff should have known the dangers associated with a particular product. (For example, you know not to stick your hand under a lawn mower while it’s running, or touch a hot stove.)
The product liability attorneys at Viles & Beckman know the tactics and strategies the defense will use to avoid damages and will fight against them to obtain the best outcome for your case.
Statute of Limitations and Repose in Florida Product Liability Suits
Under Florida law, you have four years from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit against an allegedly liable party if you or a loved one suffered injury or death as a result of a defective product. Some defective products injure people through repeated use or contact, or injuries aren’t apparent for weeks, months, or years. In these cases, Florida allows for discovery. This means your four-year statute of limitations clock doesn’t start ticking until you discover your injury, or should have reasonably discovered your injury.
Cleaning products and other toxic chemicals are examples of the types of defective products which might delay discovery of injury or illness. Florida law also has a statute of repose for defective products with an expected useful life under 10 years. A statute of repose is an absolute maximum time limit for taking legal action. In Florida product liability suits, you cannot bring a lawsuit if your injury occurred more than 12 years after the original purchase of the product.
If a defective product caused the death of a loved one, you have two years to take legal action by filing a wrongful death suit depending on your relationship to the deceased. Your attorney can guide you on the best path for you and your family.
Your Rights. Your Recovery. Our Responsibility.
Product liability lawsuits are often complex cases including multiple defendants, and sometimes several plaintiffs. We help injured people hold companies who design, make, and sell defective products, accountable for their negligence.
We work to get you full and fair compensation and prevent future consumers from harm, while you focus on healing and recovering from your injuries and loss.
If you live in the Fort Myers area, you can reach Viles & Beckman at 239-334-3933 or online to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your defective product case.Our skilled product liability attorneys can evaluate your case and determine the best path forward.
If you choose us to represent you, we handle most cases on contingency, collecting attorney fees from any compensation we secure for you in the form of settlements or verdicts in your favor.
We understand the challenging aftermath of a severe injury and are here to help.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.
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