Business Attorney, product liability issues
Written by Edward Lai

Basics of Product Liability Lawsuits and Defenses


The following is an outline of the basics behind the two theories upon which product liability suits are usually based, along with common defenses used by manufacturers.

Strict Liability

At the core of many products liability lawsuits is the Doctrine of Strict Liability. When applied, a manufacturer does not have to be negligent to be found liable for harm resulting from the manufacturer’s product to a consumer. This doctrine imposes a duty to ensure that a product is safe, and any harm resulting from use of the product means the manufacturer failed in that duty. A plaintiff who files a strict liability case may allege there was a failure to warn of the danger in using the product or a defect in the product’s design or manufacture.


Under the theory of negligence, a plaintiff’s case will focus on the above-mentioned product defects and claim that the manufacturer had a duty of due care to be a “reasonably prudent” manufacturer and failed in doing so, resulting in harm to the plaintiff.

Introduction to Defenses

The effects of a products liability suit against a manufacturer may be very damaging. Its filing will compel the defendant to consider litigation costs, possible FDA action, and the negative effects on product marketing. The primary concern will revolve around determining the best way to defend against the suit. The following defenses are those commonly used by manufacturers.

Statute of Limitations

The initial step for a manufacturer is to confirm the date of the alleged injury. Typically, statutory requirements require an injured consumer to file a lawsuit within a prescribed period. If a period of time specified in a statute of limitations passes, a lawsuit may no longer be filed, or, if already filed, may be barred for being filed after the limitations period.

Product Identification

Occasionally plaintiffs sue the wrong manufacturer. Several manufacturers may be involved in the production of a product. Issues may arise from the question as to whether the defendant named is actually the manufacturer who made the product that allegedly caused harm to the plaintiff.

Learned Intermediary

The learned intermediary defense is applicable to failure to warn cases. To illustrate, a pharmaceutical company would have no legal duty to provide a warning to patients regarding harmful side effects of a drug it manufactured if such a warning had been communicated to a doctor, who is considered a learned intermediary.

Misuse and Alteration

In the case of misuse, a manufacturer may not be liable if its product was used contrary to the warnings or instructions that accompanied the product. As for alteration, a manufacturer may be exonerated from liability if a product were altered after leaving the manufacturer’s custody. In order to be effective as a defense, misuse or alteration of a product must not have been foreseeable by the manufacturer.

Professional and Experienced Legal Assistance

The Law Office of Edward Lai can assist you with product liability issues and a range of other legal matters. If you would like to have a consultation, please contact their office through this website or call (510) 397-8287.

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