Many people often wonder if the manufacturer of a product used in an automobile, such as a car seat, can be found liable in a court of law for injuries that are caused by something other than that product but are made worse because of a defect in the product. Under the law of products liability followed in most states in USA, the answer is absolutely yes.
Product-liability law varies somewhat from state to state. This area of law is also in a state of flux in many jurisdictions. Most states have adopted some form of the Uniform Products Liability Act (UPLA), however, and allow for the institution of product-liability actions resulting in the liability of manufacturers and others in the chain of a product’s distribution if the product contains a defect in its manufacture or design or as a result of a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product’s use. Most states’ laws provide for product-liability actions as strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty claims.
When product-liability actions are brought to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by a plaintiff as a result of a product defect, these actions are generally brought under strict liability or negligence theories, though strict liability actions are far more frequently brought, as they relieve plaintiffs of the necessity of proving negligence regarding the creation or design of a defective product or even of knowledge of a defect’s existence before the product was released to the public. Strict liability law assumes that a manufacturer has a duty to design and manufacture products with reasonable care and that this duty was breached if the product released to the public contains a manufacturing, design, or failure to warn defect.
Negligence product-liability actions may also be considered to provide an advantage to plaintiffs under certain circumstances, however, if sufficient evidence of a defendant’s negligence can be presented to a jury. Juries generally find it easier to hold a defendant liable for injuries caused by a product’s defect when the defendant has been shown to have been careless or negligent in creating the product or in allowing such a product to reach the public. For this reason, plaintiffs’ lawyers often make use of evidence of knowledge or other culpability on the part of a defendant in strict liability cases, even if such evidence may not be sufficient for a finding of liability under a negligence product-liability action.
Could Graco’s knowledge of the car-seat buckle defect result in a finding that Graco was negligent in allowing infant car seats to remain on the market between Graco’s first and second recalls? The answer to this question may also be yes.
A car seat is designed for a specific purpose: to enhance the safety of a child while that child is riding in a motor vehicle and, most particularly, to provide protection against a child’s injuries from any accident that may occur while the child is riding in such a vehicle. The law recognizes that infant car-seat manufacturers and designers are aware of the uses for which the product is intended and the consequences that are likely to result if the product is defective. Thus, though Graco cannot be found responsible for the occurrence of an auto accident that ultimately results in a child’s injuries, Graco may be found liable for injuries sustained by a child that would have been prevented or lessened if the car seat in which the child was riding had not contained the particular defect in question.
The buckle defect contained in the recalled Graco car seats may, thus, result in Graco’s strict liability for injuries caused or increased by the inability to remove a child from a car seat in time to prevent such injuries if such inability is determined to have been caused by the Graco car seat’s buckle defect.
Injuries caused to others as a result of the buckle defect may also result in Graco’s liability for such injuries in a negligence product-liability action. To establish a defendant’s liability to a plaintiff in any negligence action, including one brought as a product-liability action, the plaintiff must show that the injuries sustained by the plaintiff were reasonably foreseeable by the defendant. The difficulty in releasing an infant from a car seat immediately following a motor-vehicle accident could easily result in injury not only to the infant but to parents, bystanders, or first responders who risk their own safety in an attempt to release an infant from a car seat. A plaintiff injured in such a way may be able to recover damages for such injuries in a negligence action against those responsible for the product defect by establishing that such injuries were reasonably foreseeable by such defendants as a consequence of the buckle defect.
Injuries from Defective Children’s Products Are a Growing ConcernToday’s writer, Jeffrey Killino, an experienced child-injury attorney with extensive experience with all types of child-injury cases, is concerned with injuries caused to children by defective children’s products. Attorney Killino’s knowledge and expertise with cases involving injuries to children that were caused by someone’s negligence or a defective product have earned him national recognition through appearances on major television networks, including CNN, ABC FOX, and the Discovery Channel, including appearances related to his case against Mattel, Inc., which resulted in an order compelling Mattel to offer free lead-testing to children who may have been exposed to lead-containing toys.