Product liability laws are designed to keep consumers safe from harm by the products they use in their daily lives. Without these strict legal standards, manufacturers and retailers would not be accountable to ensure the things they design, create, and sell are safe for use by the general public. Product liability laws also ensure that the items we purchase work as intended, upholding the promises of their warranties.

You might assume the company that created a dangerous or defective product would automatically be held responsible for the injuries that item caused. Surprisingly, that is not always the case. Depending on the laws in your state and the circumstances surrounding the defective item, anyone in the supply chain from the manufacturer to the retailer might be liable for your injuries.

Strict Liability Laws

In states with a strict liability rule, a consumer injured by a defective product is not required to prove that the retailer was negligent. In other words, a plaintiff in a strict liability state does not have to prove that the seller knew the item in question posed a risk to consumers. Whether the retailer is aware of a defect or recall or not, they may still be required to pay damages caused by a product they sell. Strict liability laws motivate retailers to stay on top of product recalls and do everything in their power to make sure everything they sell is safe – so they can avoid expensive lawsuits and payouts.

Other states require consumers harmed by defective products to go further and prove that retailers are negligent before filing a lawsuit. Negligence means that a retailer knew the potential safety risks of a product and sold it regardless. Stores that sell items that have been recalled are considered negligent. Retailers are also considered negligent if they fail to inform consumers of important product usage guidelines or safety information. Some states even require retailers to notify consumers of recalls issued well after a product has been purchased. Again, these product liability laws regarding negligence exist to protect the safety of the general public.

When we buy something in a store, we assume it will work the way it is intended to. That promise from the buyer to the seller is presumed and can also be expressed more concretely in the form of a warranty. Written warranties are the most explicit and easy to prove when they are violated. Automobiles, electronics, and appliances usually come with written warranties. When these products do not live up to the quality and safety standards promised, the retailer may be liable for breach of warranty. Warranties can also be implied or spoken, and proving breach of warranty in those cases can be more challenging requiring the assistance of a skilled product liability lawyer.