Products are not supposed to hurt people. When products injure people, lawyers are often asked to look into whether a recovery can be made against the manufacturer and seller of the product. In Alabama, products liability law is governed by the Alabama Extended Manufacturers’ Liability Doctrine (AEMLD).
To be able to pursue a product liability claim in Alabama, you’ve got to show generally that you were injured and that the product was dangerous. The first part, being injured, may seem obvious, but people often call lawyers when a product destroys itself or it proves to be dangerous and almost hurts them. These are times to count your blessings that you were not hurt.
The second part, proving that product was dangerous, involves several things.
First, you have to show that you were using the product either as it was intended to be used or in a way that was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used. People have different ideas for how to use products than the original idea of the manufacturer, and sometimes pieces go missing from products after use and people use them with pieces missing – that is just life, and manufacturers know this, and the law places a duty on them to try to protect people in ways they could foresee the product being used. However, there is also a concept in Alabama called contributory negligence which means that if you were doing something you knew was dangerous with the product, then you will not be able to recover.
A product is defective and unreasonably dangerous if it creates an unforeseen hazardous condition when put to its normal or foreseeable use. There are several ways this can happen and that lawyers prove these cases.
The first is a design defect. This simply means there is something about the design of the product that is defective and makes it dangerous. You can think of a saw that was designed without a guard or a guard that can easily break and fall off. This would be a dangerous condition because the saw can obviously hurt someone if it comes into contact with them. There are product defects in all types of consumer products – lead in toys, ladders that are not made strong enough or with certain fall protections, smoke detectors that don’t go off or warn when the battery is out, ATVs that roll over, electronic appliances that can catch fire. These are a few examples.
The next way to prove a product is defective is a manufacturing defect. The product could have been designed safely, but it was not put together correctly. A faulty weld, missing screws or missing pieces of a product can turn an otherwise safe product into one that can cause serious injury or death.
The third way to show a product is defective is the failure to warn of a hazard. If a danger cannot be designed out of a product, it has to be warned against. Some products have dangerous aspects to them that the normal user would not know of. Not only do products need warnings, they have to be in a place that someone will read and understand them. Warning stickers on products and in instruction manuals are common these days because of successful lawsuits that have shown manufacturers that they need to warn people of dangers.
A good example of a failure to warn came from a boating death case we handled. The upper deck of the boat was a flat surface that everyone who ever used the boat thought was meant for seating. The occupancy label said it held four people and it only had three seats, so everyone thought the deck was the other seating space. A person fell overboard and was killed sitting in this place, and we brought suit saying the manufacturer should have warned against sitting in this area.
The final area of product liability involves automobile crashworthiness. This means that even though the automobile did not cause the accident, the safety features of the car were either inadequate or did not function to protect the person from death or injury. In other words, had the vehicle been designed safely, the accident would not have caused the injury or death.
Product liability is a fascinating area of the law in Alabama and one that the product liability lawyers at Jinks, Crow & Dickson, PC have years of experience handling. These cases involve significant expense, hard work, and highly qualified experts to handle, and we are able to provide this to our clients all over the state. It is our hope that you do not ever get injured by a product, but if you do, you should talk to a qualified attorney who has the experiences and resources to pursue the claim.