Products Liability

Generally

Products liability law in Georgia permits recovery for injury and damages under the legal theories of negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty (both the breach of an express warranty and the breach of an implied warrant). Typically, the plaintiff alleges that they used or were exposed to a product which was defective and that the defect was in the product’s manufacture, design or warnings. In other words, the product was defective and caused the plaintiff injury because of the way that the manufactured it, or it was inherently dangerous when it was designed, or that the lack of an adequate warning about the relevant risks and dangers of using the product caused the injury.

Causes

Many products cause injury due to the mere exposure to them during their use. One example is asbestos. Asbestos exposure can cause a number of health problems, the most common of which involve the lungs and pulmonary (breathing) problems related to the asbestos entering the lungs and becoming encased in the lung linings. Some workers and bystanders contract asbestosis from this expose. Others can contract lung cancer and cancer in other parts of the body from this exposure. However, the most serious condition related to asbestos exposure is malignant mesothelioma, which is almost exclusively a result of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a form of silicate mineral that has been used by manufacturers around the world due to its ability to withstand damage from fire, heat, and electrical charge. The most common type of asbestos used in the United States is known as chrysotile. Chrysotile is used to manufacture a wide variety of products, including insulation, drywall, “mud”, joint compound, plaster, roofing shingles, ceilings, gaskets, brake pads, clutch plates, stage curtains, fire blankets, firebricks and high- temperature cement, welding rods, cement piping, dental cast linings, and filters designed to remove particulates from liquids. In 2005, it was estimated that 1.3 million workers were in environments that contained asbestos, although the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits to the acceptable level of asbestos exposure in the workplace.

Asbestos is found in factories where the manufacture of these above listed products takes place, but also warehouses and other locations where products that contain asbestos are kept or stored. Individuals who have only worked for only a few months in factories that contain asbestos have developed mesothelioma. Older buildings constructed with asbestos-containing building materials also pose a danger to inhabitants for developing mesothelioma. The danger still remains for those who are not directly exposed to asbestos. Family members of those who work or have been exposed to asbestos also face the danger of coming into contact with the asbestos dust by way of clothing, skin or hair follicles. For instance, in the 1980’s and 1990’s many cases of mesothelioma started appearing in woman who had not worked in or around asbestos. It turns out that these woman were either married to or the daughters of workers who were working with asbestos products during the 1960‘s, 1970‘s and 1980‘s and that these woman washed the family clothes. The first step in washing the clothes was to shake off the dust (which often contained asbestos). These woman inhaled the asbestos fibers in this fashion, and subsequently were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Due to the extraordinary latency period between asbestos exposure and the onset of mesothelioma (anywhere from 20 to 50 years), these cases started showing up well after the exposures. While this is one example of a product that is the subject of products liability litigation, it is by no means unique in that there are many unsafe products in the marketplace (on both the consumer level and the industrial level) which are the subject of intense litigation.

Types of Product Liability Cases

There are simply too many types of products liability cases to explain all of the potential causes of action and products that could be involved. Negligent manufacture, construction and assembly; negligent design; failure to adequately test and inspect; failure to provide adequate instructions, warning and labels; failure to recall the product in a proper way; putting and inherently dangerous product into the stream of commerce (strict liability) and some of the types of legal theories that we operate under when products liability cases are pursued in Georgia.

Examples of design defects from the past include:

  • a car that has a tendency to flip over while turning a corner (such as the Suzuki Samurai for example);

  • a type of sunglasses that fail to protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays; or

  • a line of electric blankets that can electrocute the user when turned on high.

Examples of a failure-to-warn claims that have been litigated in the past include:

  • an electric tea kettle that is packaged without sufficient warning related to the dangerous position of the steam valve, which is located in an unusual location;

  • a cough syrup that does not include on its label a warning that it may cause dangerous side effects if taken in combination with another commonly taken drug such as aspirin; or

  • a corrosive paint-removing chemical that is sold without adequate instructions for safe handling and use which if not used properly was dangerous to the skin.

What Makes a Product Defective?

A product can be defective if: (1) it has a manufacturing defect or flaw that comes about during the production of the product; (2) the product has an inherent flaw in its design that renders it unsafe; and (3) the product is marketed in such a fashion that adequate warning and instructions are not conveyed to the end-user, which causes a danger.

Handling of Products Liability Cases

Due to the complex nature of products liability litigation and the national focus on this type of litigation, products liability cases are almost always handled by us with associated counsel. While this is not how we handle most of our other types of case, in products liability cases, association of other counsel (many times counsel who have already filed lawsuits related to the product in question and who have taken the lead as lead counsel or lead plaintiffs’ counsel in other states) is almost always necessary.

We have earned our reputation for excellence by helping clients and families face life-changing tragedies such as dealing with injuries or death from defective products. We are experienced and skilled lawyers who have recovered millions of dollars for our clients. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced Georgia injury lawyer, call Robert J. Fleming at (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.

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