Your child just got a new toy for her birthday and while playing with it ended up with cuts and bruises. Is the manufacturer responsible for the injury? How about the seller?
You buy a new car, and on your first drive in it, you step on the brakes and they fail to hold. You crash into a wall and end up with a smashed-in radiator and hood. Can you make a claim and recover money to cover your property damage?
If you’re in Lake Wales, Winter Haven, or Lakeland, Florida, contact me at Tonya Stewart Law. I have more than 10 years of experience fighting for personal injury victims’ rights to compensation, and I have the tenacity and knowledge to take on big corporations who sell defective products and then hide behind a roomful of attorneys — or their insurance companies.
In addition to cars and toys, products that can result in injury or property damage include prescription drugs, kitchen appliances, gardening equipment, and many more. However, to win a claim for injury or damage from a product, you must show that there was a defect responsible for the result.
Florida law recognizes three types of defects:
Defective Design: Here the plaintiff must show that the product was unreasonably dangerous by design. Showing something to be unreasonably dangerous in Florida is determined by consumer expectations. If a product does not perform as safely as a reasonable consumer would expect when used in a reasonable manner, then it can be considered unreasonably dangerous.
Manufacturing Defect: Here, though the original design may have been safe, something went wrong during the manufacturing process and a defective product resulted, which then led to injuries or property damage.
Marketing Defects: This claim rests on the fact that the distributor or manufacturer failed to provide adequate usage or handling instructions, or failed to warn of adverse consequences if used in an improper manner.
If a plaintiff can show any of these defects in a product liability claim, then there is no need to prove negligence on the defendant’s part as you would in a personal injury claim arising from premises liability or causes other than defective products. The manufacturer faces what is called being “strictly liable.”
Strict liability does not preclude claims based on negligence against others involved in the design, manufacturing, and sale of the product. This circle of others involved in the product’s availability is called “the circle of commerce.”
Under section 768.81(d) of the Florida Statutes, a product liability action is defined as a civil action based upon a theory of “strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, nuisance, or similar theories of damages caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation, or assembly of a product.”
To be successful in a product liability claim, the plaintiff must show:
That the plaintiff suffered an injury or economic loss due to the product
That the product fell into one of the three defect categories listed above
That this defect was the proximate cause of the injury or loss
That the plaintiff used the product in the manner it was intended to be used, or could reasonably be expected to be used
There are time restrictions on filing a product liability claim in Florida. The statute of limitations is four years from the date of the injury or loss, but a legal standard called the “discovery rule” also applies. The discovery rule places a time limit on when a defect should be discovered in order to be actionable. If the useful life of a product is 10 years, for instance, you cannot file a defective product claim 12 years after the product was first purchased. This limitation is called the “statute of repose.”
Florida is also a pure comparative negligence state. This means that the user of the product can be held partially (or wholly) responsible for the injury or property damage from the product under question. If your child misuses a toy or you operate a household appliance in an unforeseen way, a court could find you also responsible. If you’re found 30 percent responsible, your compensation will be lowered by that percentage, say from $100,000 to $70,000.
Damages you can recover include actual loss, medical expenses, even pain and suffering, but what is called “economic loss” — such as lost profits — must be sought under contract law.
The manufacturer, or other the party you’re suing, will no doubt try to pin the blame on you for misunderstanding and misusing the product, or for not using it as reasonably expected. They could even try an end-run to get you to settle out of court or to intimidate you into dropping your claim because it’s all your fault. Let me do the negotiating. Their only goal is to minimize or zero out any possible settlement. You need a competent, experienced product liability and personal injury attorney fighting for your rights.
I am Attorney Tanya Stewart. I grew up in Lake Wales, Florida, and now I’m representing my fellow citizens in their fight for just compensation when injury or property loss occurs. Call me at Tonya Stewart Law for an initial consultation. I also proudly serve residents nearby in Lakeland, Davenport, Winter Haven, Haines City, and the surrounding areas.