How Does Florida Handle Product Liability?
When you purchase a product, the last thing on your mind is that it will do you more harm than good.
While it is normal for some products to fail you, it is a different story when you get a serious injury — or worse — from reasonably using the product. Since many products can be dangerous, Florida law requires that manufacturers, distributors, and other sellers meet rigorous safety standards before they put their products in your hands.
But when tragedy strikes, the state also gives consumers the right to sue those who are responsible for causing their product-based injuries. For these reasons, our attorneys at The Watson Firm, PLLC give you a useful overview of products liability lawsuits below. If you have any questions, please contact us at (850) 607-2929!
Who Is Liable for Defective Products?
Florida law protects individuals from defective products. These statutes apply to all consumer goods, whether the product is a child's toy, appliance, or medication. With this in mind, the 3 main ways that a company may be at fault for a defective product include:
Sometimes, a product’s design is flat-out defective even when the manufacturing process runs smoothly. When this happens, the result is potentially dangerous to consumers. A design defect example is a prescription medication with side effects that are harmful to patients who take that medication.
Another example of what is considered a defective product is a toy that contains small parts, even though the manufacturer intends the product to be used by small children. A company could be held liable in this situation if the product is dangerous despite being used reasonably or as intended. If a consumer uses a product for an unexpected purpose and suffers injuries as a result, then the product’s design will not be considered a problem in this case.
For example, suppose you plan to recover damages because of a defective design. To accomplish that outcome, you will need to prove that you used the product as intended or in a way the manufacturer should have anticipated. Failing to pass this “test” may prevent you from recovering compensation.
Manufacturing defects occur when the manufacturer is building, assembling, or otherwise creating the product. In these cases, the design might be safe but an error within the manufacturing facility may have led to hazards for the consumer. As a result, the product may injure the consumer.
One example of a manufacturing defect would be an over-the-counter medication that became contaminated at the manufacturing facility. Perhaps the medication itself is useful and safe for consumption, but the unintentional contamination caused the consumer’s injuries.
As with proving a defective design, you will need to show that you used the product in a foreseeable way or as intended if you seek compensation because of a manufacturing error.
Marketing defects frequently involve an inadequate warning on a product. For example, let’s say a manufacturer sells an effective cleaning product. If the product could be dangerous when it comes in contact with human skin, however, then the manufacturer needs to make those risks significantly clear to anyone who purchases that product. If the product lacks reasonable instructions or labeling, this could also lead to problems and risks because consumers will inevitably NOT use the product as the manufacturer intended.
Product Liability Damages for Defective Product Claims
The amount of money you recover in a product liability case depends on many factors. If your injuries are more severe, you are more likely to recover a significant amount of damages than you would if your injuries were minor.
In some instances, courts may place some of the blame on you for your injuries. If this happens, you will recover fewer damages. This is because Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule, which means that you can still recover damages if you are partly liable for your injuries, but the court will reduce the damages to reflect your share of fault.
In Florida, you can get product liability damages even if your share of fault exceeds that of the product manufacturer. For instance, if you are 60% at fault for your injuries and suffered $100,000 in damages, you could recover $40,000 from the manufacturer. The $60,000 withheld from your full damages reflects your proportion of fault.
Florida Product Liability Statute of Limitations
Florida has a statute of limitations that essentially sets a time limit on filing claims, preventing people from filing their product liability claims if they wait too long. The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in Florida, including product liability, is 4 years. However, if someone died because of a defective product, the statute of limitations is 2 years to file a wrongful death claim.
The state also has a statute of repose, which establishes the maximum time to file a claim after the manufacture or purchase of a product. For example, if the product has a lifespan of 10 years or less, you must file your lawsuit within 12 years of when the product was first purchased.
Defenses to Product Liability
Defendants often argue that a product was safe when they manufactured or shipped it, but claim the consumer modified the product later on. Another common defense is that the consumer used the product in an unforeseeable manner. In some cases, products might have foreseeable risks and include clear warnings of those risks, therefore, the defendant may argue that the consumer assumed the risk of using that product.
The bottom line is that each case is different. Your attorney can evaluate your claim and evaluate the potential defenses that the manufacturer or seller of the product might claim. From there, your lawyer can build a strong legal strategy equipped with counteractions to the defendant’s anticipated arguments, leaving no stone unturned.
The products liability attorneys at The Watson Firm, PLLC know how to hold companies accountable for putting bad products on the market. We will work tirelessly on your behalf to help you receive compensation for the harm you suffered from a product-based injury. Reach out to us online or by calling (850) 607-2929 to consult with experienced counsel today.