Liability for Dangerous Products in Alabama

When Alabama consumers purchase a product, they assume the product will be safe to use. However, some products are dangerous and cause harm even when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Section 6-5-521 defines a products liability action as a lawsuit brought for a personal injury, a death, or property damage caused by the manufacturing, design, assembly, installation, marketing, testing, or labeling of a manufactured item when the action is based on a theory of negligence, misrepresentation, the manufacturer’s liability doctrine, the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine (AEMLD), or breach of warranty.

In Alabama, unlike in some other states, those who simply act to pass along a product, such as retailers and wholesalers, often may not be held responsible through a products liability action. You cannot file a products liability lawsuit against a distributor, retailer, or seller unless that entity is also a manufacturer or assembler of the final product, and the entity’s actions caused the product’s defect; the entity had substantial control over designing, testing, manufacturing, or packaging a product, and its control had a causal connection to the product’s condition; or the entity altered the product, and this played a substantial role in causing the relevant injuries.

Entities are not protected from suit when their independent negligent, fraudulent, or wanton actions, not related to design or manufacturing, cause an injury. When you use due diligence but still can’t identify the manufacturer of a dangerous product, however, you can sue a distributor, dealer, seller, or business using the product in producing its own products or services. The defendant in that suit can file an affidavit certifying the identity of the manufacturer and be excused from the case.

Alabama courts created the AEMLD as a variation on the theory of strict liability for damages caused by defective products. When bringing a suit based on the AEMLD, you’ll need to prove that you suffered an injury and that the injury was caused by a product in a defective condition that was unreasonably dangerous to the victim as a consumer or user. However, the existence of a defect isn’t inferred just because there was a product involved in the accident or the product failed. Instead, you’ll have to prove that the product was defective and that the product left the defendant’s control with the defect. A plaintiff who has substantially altered the product in question will not be able to recover damages.

As with strict liability, there are three types of defects that the AEMLD recognizes:  manufacturing defects, design defects, and marketing defects. Manufacturing defects are unintended flaws or abnormalities that make a product more dangerous that it would be if it were constructed as intended. Design defects exist when the product’s design causes an entire product line to be unreasonably dangerous.

To prove a design defect, you will also have to prove that the manufacturer could have chosen a safer, practical alternative design at the time of manufacturing. Marketing defects, sometimes known as failures to warn, require you to show that the defendant put the product into the stream of commerce, the product was substantially unaltered when the injury occurred,  the product was inherently dangerous when put to its intended or usual use, and the defendant knew or should have known of the danger.

If you are hurt by a defective product, you should consult an experienced Alabama products liability attorney. Call Jinks, Crow & Dickson at 888-297-9592 or via our online form.

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