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What Is Product Liability Negligence?



Product liability negligence occurs when a supplier, such as a wholesaler, retailer, distributor, manufacturer, or other party in the supply chain, places a product the stream of commerce with inaccurate or inadequate labeling, or manufacturing or design defects or flaws. Product liability negligence claims can be complex and challenging to prove from a legal standpoint. Largely because of this heightened burden of proof standard, jurisprudence in the product liability area of the law has developed for strict liability claims. To better understand the theme of negligence unique to the product liability arena, it is helpful to break down each component—product liability and negligence—before discussing the two terms in tandem.

Layer One: Product Liability 101

Product liability is the form of liability attached to a manufacturer, seller, or lessor with regard to that party's consumers, end users, and third parties. The liability exists for one of two types of harm or damage that can be caused by the seller or supplier's goods: either physical injury or harm, or property damage to real or personal property. The supplier's goods cause damage if they are defective in design or the manufacturing process. They can also cause harm from lacking warning labels about risks associated with product use or inadequate directions.

Layer Two: How Does the Concept of Negligence Relate to Product Liability?

Negligence is historically a tort concept. With respect to product liability, manufacturers are liable for their failures to exhibit ordinary care to any party who suffered an injury that was proximately caused by that manufacturer's negligent conduct. In what specific ways can a manufacturer be found negligent in conduct? There are five main ways, including through:

  • design of the product
  • selection of materials, such as a component that is bought from a seller and melded into the ultimate product
  • the production process
  • assembly and testing of a product
  • placement of inadequate warnings, labels, directions, or instructions on a product's packaging, such that ordinary and average consumers and users are unaware of dangers or risks of harm associated with using the product

Recommended Next Steps

If you or someone you know has been injured or harmed from the product liability negligence of a product supplier, as a result of a design defect, manufacturing defect, or inadequate warning labeling, it is prudent to consult with counsel as soon as possible. Product liability counsel can provide further information about your potential claim(s), any available remedies and recoveries, and next steps.