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Product Liability Cases in Pennsylvania: An In-Depth Guide to Understanding Your Rights and Legal Remedies

Town Law Publishing April 12, 2023

When a defective product causes harm, victims may be entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania's product liability laws. These cases can be complex and require a thorough understanding of the legal principles involved. In this extensive guide, we'll explore the foundations of product liability in Pennsylvania, the types of defects that can give rise to a claim, and the steps to take to protect your rights and seek compensation for your injuries.

The Foundation of Product Liability Law in Pennsylvania

Product liability law in Pennsylvania is based on the principle that manufacturers, distributors, and retailers have a duty to ensure the products they bring to market are safe for their intended use. If a product is found to be defective and causes harm, the responsible parties may be held liable for the victim's damages.

Types of Product Defects

There are three primary types of product defects that can give rise to a product liability claim in Pennsylvania:

  • Design defects: A design defect occurs when a product's design is inherently flawed, making it unsafe even when properly manufactured. To prove a design defect, a plaintiff must show that a safer, feasible alternative design was available.

  • Manufacturing defects: These defects occur during the production process and result in a product that deviates from its intended design, rendering it unsafe. Manufacturing defects can involve errors in assembly, quality control failures, or contamination.

  • Failure to warn: This type of defect occurs when a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer fails to provide adequate instructions or warnings about a product's potential risks, leading to injury when the product is used as intended.

    Theories of Liability in Pennsylvania Product Liability Cases

In Pennsylvania, product liability claims can be based on various theories of liability, including:

  • Negligence: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty of care, breached that duty by producing or selling a defective product, and caused the plaintiff's injuries as a result.

  • Strict liability: Under strict liability, the plaintiff does not need to prove negligence; they must only demonstrate that the product was defective and caused their injuries. Pennsylvania follows the Restatement (Second) of Torts, which allows for strict liability claims against manufacturers and sellers of defective products.

  • Breach of warranty: A breach of warranty claim arises when a product fails to meet the express or implied warranties provided by the manufacturer or seller, resulting in injury.

Proving Causation and Damages in Product Liability Cases

To succeed in a product liability case, a plaintiff must establish causation and prove their damages. This requires demonstrating that:

  • The defective product directly caused the plaintiff's injuries.

  • The plaintiff suffered actual harm, such as physical injuries, emotional distress, lost wages, or medical expenses.

    Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania Product Liability Cases

Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence system, which means that if the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for their injuries, their compensation may be reduced by their percentage of fault. However, if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, they will be barred from recovering damages.

Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims

In Pennsylvania, product liability claims must be filed within two years from the date the injury was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. Missing this deadline may result in losing your right to pursue compensation.

Seeking Legal Representation

Due to the complexity of product liability cases and the various factors involved, it's essential to consult with an experienced attorney who can:

  • Investigate the circumstances of your case and identify the responsible parties

  • Gather evidence to support your claim, such as expert testimony or documentation of the defect

  • Communicate with insurance companies and opposing counsel on your behalf

  • Negotiate a fair settlement or represent you in court, if necessary

    Potential Defendants in a Product Liability Case

    Various parties may be held liable in a product liability case, including:

    • Manufacturers: The company responsible for designing and producing the product may be held liable for any defects that result in injury.

    • Distributors: Entities responsible for transporting or distributing the product from the manufacturer to retailers may be liable if they had reason to know the product was defective and failed to take action.

    • Retailers: The store or online seller that sold the defective product to the consumer may also be held liable, especially if they provided warranties or misrepresented the product's safety.

      Types of Compensation in Product Liability Cases

    Victims of defective products may be entitled to various types of compensation, such as:

    • Medical expenses: Costs associated with treating injuries caused by the defective product, including hospital bills, medication, and therapy.

    • Lost wages: Compensation for any income lost due to the injuries sustained and the victim's inability to work.

    • Pain and suffering: Damages awarded for the physical and emotional pain experienced by the victim as a result of their injuries.

    • Loss of consortium: Compensation for the adverse impact on the victim's relationship with their spouse or partner.

    • Punitive damages: In cases involving particularly egregious conduct by the defendant, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant and deter future misconduct.

      Challenges in Product Liability Cases

    Product liability cases can be challenging due to various factors, such as:

    • Establishing the defect: Demonstrating that the product was defective and that the defect caused your injuries can be complex, often requiring expert testimony and analysis.

    • Identifying responsible parties: Determining which parties in the supply chain are liable for your injuries can be complicated, particularly in cases involving multiple manufacturers or retailers.

    • Proving damages: Calculating the full extent of your damages, both present and future, can be difficult and may require the assistance of medical and economic experts.

    Product liability cases in Pennsylvania can be intricate and demanding, requiring a thorough understanding of the legal principles and processes involved. If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product, seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney is essential to protect your rights and navigate the complexities of your case. Consult with our knowledgeable product liability lawyers to discuss your situation and explore your options for pursuing the compensation you deserve.