A Primer on New Jersey Products Liability
Products liability law is concerned with allegedly defective products that cause injury to people or property. A products liability lawsuit can be based on a number of different claims, including design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn. In New Jersey, the New Jersey Products Liability Act governs these claims.
The Role of Product Warnings and Instructions
Products with hidden dangers, or that are dangerous if not used with certain precautions, must be accompanied by warnings and/or instructions for their safe use. These warnings must be conspicuously placed with clear, understandable language. Many manufacturers place warnings and instructions directly on their products to ensure clear visibility.
Warnings aren’t necessary for every conceivable use or risk associated with a product. For example, a knife doesn’t need a warning that it’s sharp and may cause lacerations. Nor should it need a warning against using it as a toothpick. However, if it’s an electric knife with a guard that must be used during operation, a warning against use without the guard may be required.
Strict Liability in Products Cases
Proving negligence is not always required in products liability cases. Sometimes strict liability attaches when a person is injured by a product. That is, certain product manufacturers are held strictly liable as a matter of law for injuries caused by their products, with no required showing of fault or negligence, so long as the product was being used as intended.
The theory behind strict liability is that the parties who design and manufacturer a product have heightened knowledge of the product and its potential dangers, and should be held strictly liable for any injuries that are caused by the product during the course of its normal and intended use.
Products Liability Failure to Warn Claims
The duty to warn is based on the notion that a product is defective without an adequate warning insofar as it is not safe for its intended use. Generally speaking, warnings must be extended to foreseeable users of a product. Product manufacturers not only have a duty to warn users of latent or hidden dangers associated with a product, but may also have a duty to warn of dangers that could stem from a foreseeable misuse of a product.
The analysis doesn’t end with product manufacturers either. The duty to warn can extend beyond manufacturers to downstream sellers and maintainers of products. These parties may have a duty to warn if their contact with the product after its manufacture is significant enough to confer upon them the knowledge of a potential hidden or obvious danger associated with the product.
Products liability claims are complex cases, typically requiring testimony from experts in a variety of fields. An experienced products liability attorney can review your case and determine the best course of action for you.