Earlier this year, the family of a Louisiana forklift driver alleged a design flaw in the forklift cab created a blind spot for the driver, which ultimately caused a fatal accident. In spite of a request for a summary dismissal, the court ruled the forklift manufacturer could potentially be held liable for damages under the Louisiana Products Liability Act.
Product liability law in Louisiana serves as a protector of consumers. It’s a legal framework that holds manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers accountable if a product plays a part in delivering harm. This could be a result of design defects, manufacturing flaws, or insufficient warnings. For consumers, if injured or suffer damages from a product they’ve used as intended, could have grounds for a lawsuit.
Product liability laws in Louisiana have a broad reach, covering a wide range of goods. From household appliances and power tools, to children’s toys and automobiles, almost every type of product can fall under these laws. Even food and medical drugs can be included. If these items, or any others, have defects that cause harm, one may be subject to product liability claims. The main requirement is that the product is sold in the marketplace and causes injury when used in a manner that is reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer. This wide scope helps ensure that consumers are not left unprotected when using everyday products.
Product liability cases in Louisiana generally revolve around three theories:
In a product liability case, negligence implies that the manufacturer or supplier did not exercise due care in the design, production, or supply of the product. This could involve failing to conduct adequate safety tests, using substandard materials, or not following established manufacturing protocols. For example, if a car manufacturer was aware of a potential defect in the braking system of a vehicle model but decided to continue with production without addressing the issue, and this defect led to an accident, the manufacturer could be held liable for negligence.
. Strict liability is a legal doctrine that holds manufacturers, distributors, or sellers accountable for the harm caused by their products, regardless of whether they exercised due care. The key element here is that the product was defective and caused harm. For instance, if a consumer purchased a new toaster, and it exploded the first time it was used, causing injury, the manufacturer could be held strictly liable. The consumer would only need to prove that the toaster was defective and that the defect caused the injury.
This theory involves a failure to fulfill the terms of a promise, either express or implied, about a product’s performance or quality. Express warranties are specific promises made by the seller about the product, such as a guarantee that a watch is waterproof up to 50 meters. If the watch gets water damage at 30 meters, the manufacturer could be held liable for breach of express warranty. Implied warranties, on the other hand, are unwritten and unspoken promises that a product will perform as expected for its intended purpose. For example, when you buy a new refrigerator, there’s an implied warranty that it will keep food cold. If it fails to do so, this could be seen as a breach of implied warranty.
In all these cases, the goal is to ensure that consumers are protected from dangerous or defective products and that manufacturers or suppliers are held accountable for any harm their products may cause.
In Louisiana, the concept of “comparative fault” plays a significant role in product liability claims. Under this rule, if a consumer is partially to blame for their own injury, any compensation received may be reduced proportionately. For instance, if a person is deemed 20% responsible for their injury, any financial recovery would be reduced by that amount. This concept serves as a fair system ensuring that parties are held accountable to the extent of their involvement in causing the harm. It is important for consumers to understand this rule, as it influences the outcome of product liability cases and the potential compensation they may receive.
When injured by a defective product, several steps can help protect your rights. First, seek immediate medical attention to ensure well-being needs are met and to document injuries. Next, preserve the product and any related materials like packaging or instruction manuals as these could provide vital evidence. If possible, take photos of the product, sustained injuries, and the location of the incident. Also, jot down all details related to the event, as memories can fade over time. If there were witnesses, obtain their contact information. Lastly, avoid making statements to insurance companies or product manufacturers without understanding the implications. Taking these measures can assist in effectively dealing with an unfortunate incident involving a defective product.
A product liability lawsuit typically begins when a consumer files a complaint against the manufacturer or seller, alleging a defective product caused harm. Then, the process of ‘discovery’ takes place, where both sides gather evidence. This phase often involves depositions, requests for documents, and written questions known as interrogatories. After discovery, parties may attempt to resolve the case through settlement discussions. If no agreement is reached, the case proceeds to trial. At trial, both parties present their evidence and a judge or jury determines the outcome.
Understanding key terms can help consumers grasp the nuances of the legal process. One such term is “defect,” which refers to an imperfection or flaw in a product that renders it unreasonably dangerous. “Causation” is another vital term, indicating the link between the product’s defect and the consumer’s injury. Additionally, “damages” encompass the losses suffered by the injured party, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It’s also important to be familiar with terms like “liability,” which pertains to legal responsibility, and “burden of proof,” which refers to the obligation to provide sufficient evidence to support a claim.