A defect in manufacturing is one that the manufacturer did not intend. A manufacturing defect is the clearest instance in which strict liability applies. Under the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability, a product “contains a manufacturing defect when the product departs from its intended design even though all possible care was exercised in the preparation and marketing of the product.”
An example of a manufacturing defect would be a car’s braking system that does not work properly and causes a plaintiff to have an accident. Even though the manufacturer of the car did not intend for the brakes to malfunction, and even though the manufacturer was not negligent in the design of the brakes, the strict liability doctrine in products liability law could render the manufacturer liable.
A plaintiff may have difficulty proving that a product caused the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, even if a car had some defect in the braking system, the driver’s poor reaction to driving conditions may have been the actual cause of an accident. Additionally, in some circumstances, it may be difficult for a plaintiff to prove that a defect caused an accident due to the damage to the product. A car may be so heavily damaged in an accident, for instance, that it is impossible to prove what caused the accident to occur.
In some instances, a plaintiff can rely on the “malfunction doctrine” to prove causation. Under this doctrine, if the circumstances of an accident indicate that a defect caused the accident, and the plaintiff can produce evidence that removes other possible causes, then the plaintiff can prove causation even if the product is damaged or destroyed. This doctrine is similar in application to res ipsa loquitur in the law of negligence.
There are generally three places in which defects can be found in products:
– which can be found in the way the product was originally created and designed
– which occur when the factory produces a flaw that is not in the design plans
– in which the instructions or warnings on the product are inadequate to protect the consumer.
When there is a factory defect, or a defect in production, it means that somewhere, at some stage of the manufacture of the product, there was an error or defect in manufacture that made the product unsafe. In most cases, appropriate efforts were made to create a safe product, but mechanical, technical, or human error caused the factory defect. While it can be difficult and time consuming to find the exact point or person that caused the factory defect, two methods can be used to prove product liability:
“Res ipsa loquitur” or “the thing speaks for itself.” – this means that merely because there is a production defect, and that particular defective product does not conform to the design of other similar products, it is clear that there was negligence that produced the manufacturing defect
Strict liability – the defendant does not need to prove that, or in what way, the manufacturer was negligent, only that the product was defective.
Liability in Manufacturing Defects
When there is a defect in production and a consumer suffers injury as a result, that consumer has the right to file a product liability lawsuit and obtain remedies such as compensation or damages. All that the consumer and their lawyer must prove is that there was a defect in manufacture, that that defect caused injury, and that there were no alterations by the consumer to cause the defect. If that case can be proven, the plaintiff may win their case and be awarded the appropriate amount of compensation.
Hidden defect liability is in essence the same as any other kind of product liability. If the product had hidden defects and caused injury, the manufacturer and the sellers may be liable for compensation to the injured party, in the form of medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Whether or not a manufacturer knew about, or should have known about, hidden defects, they are responsible for the consequences consumers suffer because of that product use.
There are a number of requirements before a consumer can have grounds to file a lawsuit for hidden defect liability:
The hidden defects within the product were “unreasonably dangerous” and occurred in the manufacture, design, or marketing of that product, whether or not those defects were discovered previously
The consumer was injured using the product in the manner intended by the manufacturer
The product was not substantially altered by the consumer from the original design by the manufacturer
It can be extremely difficult to prove the specific point at which a manufacturer was liable for hidden defects in a product. In those cases, the laws of “res ipsa loquitur” apply. This means that “the thing speaks for itself.” If someone had not been negligent, the defects would not exist and the injury would not have occurred. If this law is effectively used by the plaintiff and their lawyer, the defendant must then prove that they were not negligent.