Product liability lawsuits are often rather straightforward – due to strict liability laws, an injured person can sue a manufacturer for a defective product without proving the manufacturer was negligent. It is enough for the victim and his or her West Virginia products liability lawyer to prove the defective product caused the injury for courts to hold the manufacturer responsible. When a manufacturer recalls a product, however, the rules of product liability cases change.
How Do Recalls Work?
When manufacturers become aware of a potential hazard with a product, they generally issue a voluntary recall. Manufacturers may notice defects on their own or because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) brings it to their attention. A product defect can take three basic forms:
• A design flaw that makes the product inherently dangerous to use. An example is a fan cover that does not protect users’ fingers from fan blades.
• Defective manufacturing during construction or part creation. An assembly line worker could negligently construct a product wrong, for example, creating a hazard.
• Failure to adequately warn users of product risks or operation directions. If a manufacturer is aware of a possible hazard, such as hot coffee burning a user’s hand through a to-go cup, the manufacturer legally must warn the user of such hazards.
If the manufacturer does not issue a voluntary recall, the FDA or CPSC may issue the recall by sending out a notice to all sellers and distributors of the product. They will also notify purchasers of the product if this information is available, as is the case with most new automobile sales. The recall will state the nature of the defect, the possible risks, and how to have the product replaced or repaired. You can typically find notices posted in the media and in trade journals, or you can search the product by name in an online recall database.
Product Recalls and Manufacturer Liability
Just because a manufacturer announces a product recall, it does not make the company automatically liable for any injuries the product caused. An injured party must still go to court and prove a product was defective and the defect caused his or her injury. Once again, plaintiffs do not need to prove the manufacturer’s negligence as they would in most personal injury cases.
As a plaintiff, you can use the recall as circumstantial evidence that the product defect existed, but you will also need direct evidence. This can include photos of the defective product, eyewitness interviews, and key witness testimony. Some courts will not allow a plaintiff to admit a recall as evidence. Jurors in these cases would not be aware of the recall, and the case would proceed as though there was no recall.
A recall does not guarantee you will win your product liability case, nor does it act as a waiver protecting the manufacturer. Just because the manufacturer warned the public of a defect after the fact does not mean the courts will not hold them responsible for injuries the product causes. To avoid liability after a recall, a manufacturer must prove the plaintiff in question was aware of the recall before he or she used the defective product.
Experienced Products Liability Lawyers in West Virginia
If a defective product caused your injury or injured a loved one, you have the right to sue for compensation regardless of whether or not the manufacturer issued a recall. A recall does not protect manufacturing companies from facing the consequences of releasing a defective and dangerous product to the public.
To find out more about products liability laws in West Virginia, contact Tiano O’Dell, PLLC. Our Charleston personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling products liability and recall cases and can help defend your rights as a consumer in front of a jury. Call us now at (304) 720-6700 or contact us online for a free consultation.