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The Responsibility of Manufacturers and Retailers in Florida Product Liability Cases

05/19/2023
Product Liability
BY

It is normal and reasonable to believe that all of the products on sale at a store are safe. The overwhelming majority of companies take the necessary steps to ensure that this is so. There are instances, however, when a product poses a danger to a consumer or their loved ones. Understanding the responsibility that manufacturers and retailers have in a product liability case is important to understanding your rights after you have been injured.

This article will discuss three specific topics. Issues which will be discussed include:

  • The responsibility of manufacturers to ensure the safety of a product
  • How retailers may be found liable for a product defect
  • The complicated nature of such cases

Each of these points will be discussed in turn.

Manufacturers Have a Responsibility to Ensure the Safety of a Product

Liability can extend to every entity in the chain that interacts with a product. This includes the company which manufactures it. Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that they do not produce a faulty product. They also have a responsibility to not knowingly manufacture a defective product which is based on another company’s faulty design. 

Manufacturers Must Ensure That They Are Not Manufacturing a Defective Product

Companies which design a product provide specifications to the manufacturer. These specifications include the types of materials to be used, processes to be followed, and more. If the manufacturer fails to follow these specifications, and the result is a dangerous product, then they can be held liable if the dangerous condition leads to an injury.

Consider the following example. A cell phone company designs all aspects of their products and they outsource the manufacturing process to a third-party. The design of the company’s latest product calls for there to be a certain amount of space between the battery and the phone’s rear cover. This space is necessary so that the battery does not overheat. Unfortunately, the manufacturing company’s automated assembly process was not set correctly and the phones are shipped with rear covers that are pressed on too tightly. This creates a problem where the batteries begin to overheat and some phones explode. Under this scenario, the manufacturer would clearly be liable for failing to follow the design specifications.

Manufacturers Must Not Produce a Product Which They Believe Has a Design Flaw

Manufacturers can also be held liable for a product defect if they produce an item which they believed had a design flaw. Manufacturing companies are typically aware of all aspects of a product’s design. This is often a necessity so that they can design their production process. If a manufacturer analyzes a product for production, and they find the design to be inherently dangerous, then they may be held liable if they go ahead with the manufacturing. Whether a manufacturing company had reason to know that a design was inherently flawed is a highly fact specific issue.

Retailers May Be Liable For Not Ensuring That Products Are Safe

Retailers have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that the products which they sell are safe. Stores often make sure that designers and/or manufacturers go through a quality and safety check process before sending items to a retailer. In addition to requiring that companies have a quality control process, many retailers provide feedback as to what they require in order for a company to place products on their shelves. Finally, if a retailer learns that a product it’s selling is dangerous, then the retailer will generally have a duty to remove the items from shelves as soon as possible. A retailer who fails to take adequate steps to ensure that products are safe, may face liability.

Let’s continue with the example from above. A cell phone manufacturer secures the back of the devices too tightly and, as a result, there is a risk of the batteries exploding. Now suppose that consumers, as well as news outlets, begin to report that phones are overheating and some are exploding. Now suppose that the retailer does not remove the defective model of phone from the shelves until a week after reports about the problem begin to surface. During that week, someone buys a phone from the retailer and it subsequently explodes next to the person’s face. This causes burns. Under this scenario, the retailer may face possible liability for continuing to sell the phone after it knew of a potential problem.

Product Liability Cases Are Highly Complicated

Bringing a claim against the manufacturer of a defective product can be a highly complicated affair. Such cases will typically require the use of one, if not several, expert witnesses. These experts will review every step of the process which brought the product from its conception to the retail shelf. They will offer an opinion as to whether the manufacturer was negligent in their own right or if they had reason to know they were assembling a product with a design flaw. 

Bringing a successful case against a retailer can be even more complex. This is due to the fact that the retailer has the least to do with a product’s defective state of all the companies up and down the chain. While successfully suing a retailer is difficult, it is not impossible. 

In addition to the use of expert witnesses, product liability cases will also require your attorney to perform extensive discovery. Evidence obtained through the discovery process may include internal memoranda, company emails, correspondence between manufacturers, retailers, and other entities, and more. While the type of evidence needed will always depend on the specifics of the situation, retaining counsel with extensive experience in such matters will be crucial.

Call a Florida Product Liability Attorney

If you or a family member have been injured by a defective product then you may have a cause for action against several companies. These can include manufacturers as well as retailers. Retaining a lawyer with experience in such matters is important to ensuring that all liable parties are held to account. Call us today at 800-780-8607 or contact us online to speak with a Florida product liability lawyer.

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