Product liability is a phrase used to describe the liability of a supplier of a product to one injured by the product. Thousands of South Carolina residents are injured or killed annually by defective products. Corporate manufactures, end of line distributors, and retailers are responsible for the safety of their products. In fact, consumers purchase products with the expectation that those products have been effectively tested and produced to maximize the safety of the product. Unfortunately, it is quite common for one to be seriously injured by a defective product. Where this occurs, those mentioned above may be responsible for all loss associated with the defect.
Product defect claims arise under three areas of the law: design defect, manufacturing defect, warranty/warnings defect; and, under five theories of liability: Intent; Negligence, Strict Liability; Implied Warranties; and Representations. Each state treats product defect liability differently.
South Carolina courts recognize the three areas of liability: (1) design defect, (2) warnings defect, and (3) manufacturing defect. Regardless of which theory of product liability a plaintiff pursues South Carolina requires a plaintiff to prove three things: (1) that she was injured by the product, (2) that the product, at the time of the accident, was in essentially the same condition as when it left the hands of the defendant; and (3) that the injury occurred because the product was in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user. In addition, to find liability under any theory the plaintiff must normally show that the product was defective when it left the defendant's control.
(1) Manufacturing Defect – A defect which results from the production, process, materials, or workmanship during the production and manufacturing of a product. This defect normally results in production of a product that is vastly different from all other products produced along the same production line. Therefore, normally a manufacturing defect is limited to one particular product. A plaintiff is likely to prevail if she can prove the product was dangerous beyond the expectations of an ordinary consumer. This product liability theory extends to defective food products, and plaintiff’s may pursue the defendant in negligence or strict liability. In South Carolina a negligence theory imposes the additional burden on a plaintiff of demonstrating the defendant failed to exercise due care in some respect (unlike strict liability). Thus, the focus is on the conduct of the seller or manufacturer of the product, and liability is determined according to fault. Bragg v. Hi-Ranger, Inc., 319 S.C. 531, 539, 462 S.E.2d 321, 326 (Ct. App. 1995).
(2) Design Defect – A defect which effects all of a particular product due to unreasonably dangerous propensities regarding the mechanical or technical aspects of the products design. The defect can relate to the method of packaging or mechanical features that were defectively designed so as to be unreasonably dangerous to the end user. South Carolina courts require the plaintiff to prove that the design of the product caused it to be “unreasonably dangerous,” and the the manufacturer knew of the design defect at or prior to the date of manufacture. In South Carolina the exclusive test used to determine whether a product was unreasonably dangerous as a result of a design defect is the risk-utility test. The risk-utility test requires the plaintiff to show that a less dangerous alternative design (a modification of the design or alternative design) was economically feasible at the time the product was designed.
(3) Marketing Defects, Warnings, Warranty – A defect relating to the marketing of a particular product. Typically, this type of defect involves the marketing of a product for unintended uses, or selling a product with inadequate warnings of any dangers that may not be apparent to the user. This does not apply to all products. For instance, prescription drugs and medical devices are subject to a less stringent standard whereby warnings to the prescribing physician may suffice.
We are experienced in investigating and identifying a potential defect in a range of product, to include automotive and pharmaceutical products, and ultimately orchestrating a successful resolution to a product defect claim.
- Automotive Defect
- Airbag Defect
- Negligent Manufacturing
- Breach of Warranty / Failure to Warn
- Pharmaceutical / Drug Defect
- Dangerous Products
- Power Tool Injuries