When people think about a products liability claim, it is very common to imagine a defective child safety seat, an electrical appliance with a dangerous flaw, even an auto safety recall involving a faulty tire or brake system component on a passenger car or commercial truck. One thing that most people don’t consider is that larger items, very large items, can also be named in a product liability lawsuit. As Maryland auto accident and personal injury lawyers, I and my legal staff understand the faith that people place in products and everyday items.
By saying this, we mean that consumers and those in the general public have a relative expectation that most products and other man-made items will not harm them; certainly one can surmise that there is a belief among most people that they will not be killed if they use a certain product or manufactured item. Naturally, this also implies that the consumer will use the item in the way it was intended, which can be another important aspect of a well thought-out products liability claim.
As an aside, we should remind readers that every one of us is a consumer of multiple products and services every day of our lives. There is almost nothing that you or I touch on a regular basis that is not designed, manufactured, processed or created in some way, shape or form for our use or consumption. And so it goes that when we purchase a product from a store, dealer or directly from a manufacturer we expect that item to perform in the way in which it is supposed.
Unfortunately, sometimes a product fails to function correctly. If it does, we always have the option of returning it to the manufacturer or complaining to the store from which it came. However, and this is a serious point, if a product fails to work correctly and, in doing so, causes harm or death to the user, then the situation has certainly escalated to something more than visiting the customer service counter at one’s local department store.
Products liability law encompasses three separate theories. That of negligence, breach of warranty, and what the law refers to as “strict liability.” When it comes to negligence, an injured party may claim that the manufacturer of the product failed to do follow reasonably prudent methods when designing or manufacturing the item in question. Specifically, manufacturers can be liable if they fail to exercise reasonable care in the design, manufacture or inspection of a product before its sale to and use by the consumer — this includes warning users of any dangerous conditions associated with the product.
Breach of warranty comes from contract law and says that there are both express and implied warranties regarding the soundness of a product. If there was a breach of any of those warranties, the consumer may be able to file a claim under the breach of warranty theory in order to recover damages.
Finally, under the theory of strict liability, which is usually less difficult to establish than breach of warranty or negligence, the plaintiff must establish that the product was defective; however under this theory, the plaintiff need not prove the manufacturer’s or seller’s negligence. Instead, the plaintiff must prove only A) that the product was defective when it left the control of the manufacturer or seller; B) that the item in question was unreasonably dangerous; C) that the defect caused injury to the plaintiff; and D) that there was no substantial change in the condition of the item from the time it left the manufacturer or seller to the time it reached the plaintiff.
Occasionally, following a car, truck or motorcycle accident, it can sometimes be found that the roadway or some related part of the traffic control system was defective to the extent that it failed to accomplish its purpose of safely controlling or guiding vehicular traffic. An accident caused by a defective road or traffic control device can sometimes be cited as the primary or contributing cause of a person’s injury.
Conditions such as uneven, chunked or otherwise broken pavement; inadequate signage; poorly palced or missing protective guardrails; inadequate roadway lighting; and even overgrown vegetation that blocks full view of a traffic control sign; or poorly drained road surface can all be elements of a personal injury claim. We thought of this last month when a teacher from Manchester Valley High School died after apparently losing control of his car along a portion of Sullivan Rd. in Carroll County.
According to news reports, the crash happened a little before 7am as the 23-year-old math instructor was heading to work. Based on information from the local police, the teacher’s Ford Focus was going northbound on Sullivan when it entered a sharp turn not far from the intersection of MD 27. At that moment, according to reports, the Ford slid across the center line and spun sideways just before being hit by an oncoming school bus in the southbound lane.
As a result of the impact, the man’s vehicle caught fire as it spun around and back to the northbound shoulder. Emergency responders arriving at the scene of the crash apparently tried to save the victim, but he was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene. Police accident investigators believed that icy conditions probably contributed to the crash. The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office described the roadway at the time of the crash as “treacherous.” None of the five students, nor the driver of the school bus were injured during the incident.
Manchester Valley students mourn loss of teacher, CarrollCountyTimes.com, February 12, 2013