Product Liability – Addressing Allegations through Engineering Investigations

Product liability is the area of law in which manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers and others who make products available to the public are held responsible for the injuries those products potentially cause.

Claims professionals, risk managers, third party administrators and attorneys are involved with the pathways that product liability claims and complaints follow toward litigation.   In order to effectively address these allegations, not only is it often necessary to retain the services of an expert, but it is also equally important to work seamlessly side by side with the expert  to understand the engineering methods employed during product liability investigations.

Most Product Liability cases have three common elements:

  1. A defective product which can be attributed to:

• Defective design

• Defective manufacturing

• Defective warnings

2. An injury

3. A causal relationship between the two

Engineering experts typically present critical evidence and opinions about defective design.  Defective design may involve the design hierarchy.  Simply stated, potential product hazards should ideally be eliminated by design.  If the hazard cannot be eliminated by design, you should add a guard to protect the user.  And if the hazard cannot be guarded against, it should be controlled through training or warnings.  For example, a product may be alleged to be defective since the manufacturer relied on warnings (a lower level control) when there were feasible methods of design and/or guarding available.

Defective manufacturing could include variables such as quality of component materials or flawed manufacturing processes.  Finally, an expert can address defective warning allegations by referring to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z535 series in the United States and ISO 3864 Part 2 internationally and/or by performing a user study to see if a warning is appropriate and effective.

Obviously, the second element, an injury, initiates the claim or need for litigation.

The causal relationship between the design and the injury can be addressed by an analysis of the incident specifics and how those specifics could have been influenced by the product design.  It is also possible that a biomechanical analysis of the mechanism of injury is required to determine if the claimed injury could have occurred in the manner alleged.

To better understand the technical merits of your defective product / product liability case, contact CED for an initial consultation, free of charge.  Click here to contact a CED representative.