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Product liability claims are primarily derived from negligence and breach of implied contractual terms in the sale of goods legislation such as fitness for purpose, but not limited to other areas of law such as product strict liability. Generally, manufacturers must produce products that are reasonably safe.
Sometimes, consideration of the inherent danger of the product plays an important role in determining liability. Should a product’s defectiveness be established, a manufacturer may then disprove its negligence.
Sometimes implied contractual considerations such as industry custom and usage play key roles in determining liability.
Often, claims may arise because of a lack of reasonable notice/warning by a manufacturer of a products adverse effects or dangers.
In determining liability, the general formula considers first, whether the product is defective, when used ordinarily. Sometimes a product has not inherent defect however, it may have a propensity to cause injury. Next, considerations with respect to the manufacturer’s knowledge of the alleged dangerousness or defect of its product. Testing methodology may be an apparent issue. If the risk of the product and it’s propensity to injury outweigh any value/beneficial considerations, consideration of warning labels and notice of the dangers to the consumer must be analyzed. Lastly, causation and damages considerations are considered.
Nature and Extent
Some of the most important considerations in product liability claims are, the nature and extent of the usage of the product by the consumer and any historical data on the product with respect to failure, defect, causing harm or failure of testing and inspection methodology.
Product liability claims are highly complex with many requirements and note should be made of the fact that any potentially successful claim may be subject to the ‘Defenses’ that a manufacturer has to avoid liability.
One such Defence may arise when a product is, after manufacture, sent for an intermediary inspection by an expert third party, before its eventual sale to the end user, thus potentially shielding the manufacturer.
Within the spectrum of the sale of goods, fitness for purpose may be an alternative avenue upon which liability may rest. The general considerations are first whether a purchaser expressly or impliedly made known to a vendor the particular use/purpose which the goods are required. Next, whether the purchaser relied on the vendor’s skill/judgment. Next, that the goods are of a description that it is in the course of the vendor’s business to supply and lastly, whether the vendor is the manufacture.
In order to have a potentially successful claim, we must establish that the product is so defective that it is unusable or the product performs consistently below the reasonable expectations of the purchaser. However, we must note that a claim may not arise where there is a potential breach of an implied warranty and the Plaintiff/injured party had no privity of contract with the vendor.