Persons injured by a defective drug or product are often entitled to bring “strict liability” claims. These claims are different than those ordinarily asserted in personal injury lawsuits.
Most personal injury claims focus on the behavior of the wrongdoer. For example, negligence claims require proof that the defendant acted unreasonably, in other words, that the wrongdoer acted differently than a reasonable person would have acted in the same or similar circumstances.
“Strict liability” lawsuits are different. These claims focus on the product itself.
Under strict liability, if a product has a defect — whether in design, manufacture, warnings, or instructions — the manufacturer or distributor is liable, even if the manufacturer was not negligent in designing the product, in manufacturing it, or in issuing its warning or instructions.
This often means products liability plaintiffs have a lower burden of proof than plaintiffs in other personal injury cases.
The reason that strict liability exists is that, if proving a violation of the reasonable standard of care was required, manufacturers could band together and act carelessly. They could then argue that carelessness is the reasonable standard of care in the industry.
It is also extremely difficult to find expert witnesses who can testify to the reasonable standard of care.
For those reasons, courts across the country agreed that persons injured by defective drugs and products should involve a different basis of liability–strict liability.
The California Supreme Court explained the reasoning behind strict liability in its landmark Greenman decision:
Even if there is no negligence, however, public policy demands that responsibility be fixed wherever it will most effectively reduce the hazards to life and health inherent in defective products that reach the market. It is evident that the manufacturer can anticipate some hazards and guard against the recurrence of others, as the public cannot. Those who suffer injury from defective products are unprepared to meet its consequences. The cost of an injury and the loss of time or health may be an overwhelming misfortune to the person injured, and a needless one, for the risk of injury can be insured by the manufacturer and distributed among the public as a cost of doing business. It is to the public interest to discourage the marketing of products having defects that are a menace to the public. If such products nevertheless find their way into the market it is to the public interest to place the responsibility for whatever injury they may cause upon the manufacturer, who, even if he is not negligent in the manufacture of the product, is responsible for its reaching the market. However intermittently such injuries may occur and however haphazardly they may strike, the risk of their occurrence is a constant risk and a general one. Against such a risk there should be general and constant protection and the manufacturer is best situated to afford such protection.
A person who has been injured by a defective product may bring a strict liability claim.
This includes defective drugs as well as dangerous consumer products.
Claimants who have standing to bring products liability claims include:
Morrow & Sheppard are Houston injury lawyers who represent victims of defective drugs and products nationwide.
Please contact us now for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights.
Ethicon v. Parten, 520 S.W.2d 527 (14th Houston, Texas Court of Appeals 1975) (holding, in case arising from defective medical device-needle, that users, consumers, and bystanders all have standing to bring products liability personal injury lawsuits).
Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, 59 Cal. 2d 57 (1963).
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