This body of law is commonly referred to as products liability. The manufacturer or seller of a defective and unreasonably dangerous product is liable to anyone who is injured by the proper use of the product. The theory of products liability has been asserted with success against numerous companies whose products have been found to be defective and unreasonably dangerous. In Arizona, a food product that is otherwise fit for human consumption and nourishment is not, by legal definition, “defective and unreasonably dangerous.”
A product can be defective and unreasonably dangerous if it contains a manufacturing defect, a design defect, or does not come with adequate warnings or instructions. Each type of defect is discussed below, with examples provided.
A product is defective and unreasonably dangerous because of a manufacturing defect if it contains a condition which the manufacturer did not intend and, as a result, it fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when the product is used in a reasonably foreseeable manner. Example: A lawnmower that loses a blade during normal operations, because the blades were improperly assembled during the manufacturing process.
A product is defective and unreasonably dangerous because of a design defect if the harmful characteristics or consequences of its design outweigh the benefits of the design. A product is also defective and unreasonably dangerous because of a design defect if it fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when the product is used in a reasonably foreseeable manner. Example: A car that bursts into flames during a rear-end collision because of the location and design of the gas tank.
Failure to Warn
A product, even if faultlessly made, is defective and unreasonably dangerous if it would be unreasonably dangerous for use in a reasonably foreseeable manner without adequate warnings or instructions. Example: A space heater sold without a warning that it should not be placed close to combustible materials during use.
Who is Liable?
The defective products laws apply to the “manufacturers” and “sellers” of products. These terms are broadly defined. A “manufacturer” is a person or company who designs, assembles, fabricates, produces, constructs, or otherwise prepares a product or component part of a product prior to its sale to a user or consumer. A “seller” is a person or company who is engaged in the business of leasing any product or selling any product for resale, use or consumption. The definition of seller includes wholesalers, distributors, retailers and lessors.
Before a manufacturer or seller can be found at fault, it must be determined that the product manufactured or sold was defective and unreasonably dangerous, and that the defect was a cause of the person’s injury. A defect causes an injury if it helps produce the injury, and if the injury would not have happened without the defect.
A manufacturer or seller of a defective and unreasonably dangerous product must compensate the person injured by the product for his damages. In deciding damages, a jury will consider the nature, extent and duration of the injury, pain and suffering experienced, disability and disfigurement, medical expenses, and lost earnings. The spouse of the injured person may have a claim for loss of love, care, affection, companionship, and other pleasures of the marital relationship, known as a loss of consortium claim.
Statute of Limitations
A lawsuit for product liability must be filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action accrues. Generally, a cause of action will accrue on the date that the product causes injury.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Don likes to target shoot, scuba dive, and pilot airplanes. Most recently, he has been working on his golf handicap. Don enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with his wife, twin sons, and golden retriever, Lucy.