7 Facts You Need To Know About Florida's Product Liability Laws
In this day and age, everybody relies on the convenience of consumer goods to get through the hustle and bustle of each day. Nearly everything a person uses – whether it’s their personal smartphone or the prescription drugs they take – are mass-produced in factories and purchased from one of many retailers dotted around the world.
Buying and using someone else’s products come with the implicit trust that these items are generally safe to use, given that they are used properly for its intended purpose. It is at this point that product liability laws come into play, particularly when significant injuries arise out of the use of any product, especially if the product was used according to the instructions.
If you or someone you know in Florida has gained injuries arising from using any product, then you should seek the services of a personal injury lawyer. With their help, you can make a product liability claim to demand compensation for your injuries.
To increase your chances of winning a product liability lawsuit, here are seven things you need to know about Florida’s product liability laws.
Product Liability Lawsuits in Florida Require a Strong Basis for Liability
To win a product liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove that a manufacturer is liable for the injuries accumulated because of the use of the product. Generally, Florida plaintiffs can use two theories to go after a manufacturer: negligence or strict liability.
In trying to prove negligence, one needs to show that a manufacturer’s actions were the direct cause of the personal injuries sustained. Claims under the negligence theory arise from defects in the design, manufacturing, label, breach of warranty, fraud, and misrepresentation.
Negligence can occur in several phases of the product development process. Such situations include but are not limited to:
- Failure to adequately review product plants
- Failure to perform adequate maintenance procedures for the machines and equipment used in the manufacturing of any or all of the product’s components
- Failure to do thorough product testing before release
A plaintiff can also bring up any breach of the warranty in trying to prove negligence. When a product is put up for sale, a buyer can rely on two kinds of warranty: express warranty and implied warranties.
- Express Warranty is a codified list of promises that a manufacturer claims to back its own product. Examples of these are entitlements to repair and replace if a product has been found defective.
- Implied Warranty is the promise made by manufacturers that a product is safe to use if operated within intended purposes.
Another way to go about the matter is to use strict liability. To do this, a plaintiff must show that a product was defective before it rolled out of the factory and landed on a customer’s custody, causing it to be unreasonably dangerous.
To prove that a defendant should be held strictly liable, plaintiffs must prove at least one of the following:
- Defective Design – cases involving defective design typically assert that the product was unreasonably dangerous because of the manufacturer’s own design. In Florida, determining if a product is unreasonable is done through the consumer-expectation test.
- The consumer – expectations test holds that a product is unreasonably dangerous if it does not perform safely within normal and intended use as expected by the average consumer.
- Manufacturing Defect – a claim made on the grounds of manufacturing defects need to prove that something went wrong during the manufacturing process. This nullifies any efforts made to make the product safe because the manufacturing facility itself is defective. In this case, even if the product was used for intended purposes, a plaintiff can still make the manufacturer liable for personal injuries.
Marketing Defect – a marketing defect claim must show that the manufacturer failed to indicate to issue adequate warnings that would have allowed the plaintiff to exercise caution. The plaintiff must show that there were obvious risks that could have been avoided had the manufacturer successfully issued appropriate warnings about the product’s inherent risks.
Product warnings are governed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which issues rules and regulations for safety symbols, as well as product safety signs and labels.
According to the ANSI, warning labels should fulfill the following purposes:
- Inform the consumer of existing risks and their severity,
- Inform the consumer of the possible adverse effects of the given risk, and;
- Let the consumer know how to avoid the risks involved with using the products.
- One example of such is the “Choking Hazard” label printed on children’s toys with small parts. The choking hazards label usually tells you the age group suitability of the item. It also informs you that the said small parts can cause choking when ingested by younger children.
- A missing choking hazard label alone can be a valid reason for filing a product liability claim in Florida.
Florida has Time Limits for Product Liability Lawsuits
As is the case in all states, there are time limits to when a plaintiff can file for a product liability case in Florida. This is why contacting your personal injury lawyer in Florida should be one of your top priorities in the aftermath of a relevant injury due to a product manufacturer’s negligence.
The two most important rules concerning such time limits are the statute of limitations and statute of repose.
The statute of limitations for product liability in Florida is four years from the date of injury, which is shortened to two years if the claim is for wrongful death. The plaintiff could file for extension via the discovery rule if the injuries were discovered at a later date.
Meanwhile, the statute of repose bars an individual from filing a lawsuit for product liability if the product that caused the injury was already past its expected useful life when the injuries were sustained. This statute applies to food and pharmaceutical products that are required by law to indicate expiry dates. This means that the manufacturer cannot be held liable for injuries sustained by the plaintiff as a result of consuming expired medicines or food items.
Florida Follows the Pure Comparative Negligence Rule
The pure comparative negligence rule takes into account the contributions of both parties in the accident, affecting the overall amount of compensatory damages to be awarded to the plaintiff. This means that if the court finds the plaintiff 30% liable for damages worth $150,000, then he or she would only receive $105,000 as compensation.
This is in contrast with states that follow the modified comparative negligence form, which holds that a plaintiff cannot expect compensatory damages if they are found to be at least 50% at fault. The pure comparative negligence rule allows the plaintiff to secure compensation while simultaneously helping the defendant cut on costs.
Florida’s Product Liability Laws are not limited to the manufacturer
A plaintiff can seek compensatory damages from any party involved in the defective product’s chain of distribution in Florida. This means that in a product liability lawsuit, a plaintiff can name the manufacturer, wholesalers, and retail outlets as defendants.
- Manufacturers – Depending on the size and complexity of the erring product, a claimant can name multiple manufacturers in a product liability lawsuit. This is because it is typical for manufacturers to be using parts manufactured by multiple other factories. Such is the case for automotive vehicles, which is composed of hundreds of moving parts sourced from other original equipment manufacturers.
- Retailers – A retailer can also be made liable for product liability damages because of implied warranties. This means that when a retailer agrees to include a product in their inventory and puts it up for sale, they are ensuring that a product is safe when used for its intended purpose.
- Wholesalers – Like the retailer, wholesalers also bear the responsibility of ensuring that the products they sell are safe to use. If possible, it’s best to name every actor in the product’s distribution change. This is because corporations change names and forms all the time through buyouts, acquisitions, and mergers.
There are Four Elements to a Successful Product Liability Claim in Florida
In the aftermath of an accident arising from a defective product, it’s important to establish the merits of your case with a reputable personal injury lawyer in Florida. Here are four things that you will need to run over with your attorney.
- Presence of bodily injuries and suffered losses – Bodily injuries, damage to property, lost wages or profits, and economic losses must be present for any product liability claim to prosper.
- Defective Product – The plaintiff must prove that a product had a flawed design or a manufacturing defect. Otherwise, you must prove that the product’s manufacturer failed to warrant users regarding the risks that it could pose to the user.
- Causative relationship between defective product and injury – For a product liability claim to be heard in court, the plaintiff must show that the product’s defect directly caused the injuries and losses suffered. Additionally, the plaintiff needs to prove that the defective product was the proximate cause of the accident, which means that there are no superseding acts that could shield the manufacturer from liability. Examples of such acts are product warnings that were properly issued.
- Product was used for the intended purpose – Products are always designed with a specific purpose in mind. For example, while it is certainly possible to haul construction material with your sports utility vehicle, that is usually not the intended purpose of the manufacturer. Therefore, any injury or damages caused by doing so cannot be used to make your SUV manufacturer liable.
To win a product liability claim, a plaintiff needs to demonstrate that the defective product caused the injuries and/or losses, even if it was used properly.
There are Two Kinds of Damages that can be Awarded in a Product Liability Case in Florida
There are many motivations for filing a product liability lawsuit, but they all gun for the same end goal: the awarding of damages. The damages that Florida courts award can be classified into two categories: compensatory damages and punitive damages.
As their name suggests, compensatory damages are awarded to compensate plaintiffs for the cost of recovery, which includes—but is not limited to—medical expenses, lost wages and profits, and property damages. Provided that you can prove bodily injuries, you can also demand compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.
In most cases, Florida courts only award compensatory damages. However, upon its discretion, a Florida court can also award punitive damages if a defendant has acted in a particularly negligent and damaging way. Punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff purely as a way to punish the defendant, in hopes of deterring it from committing the same acts again.
A Retailer Holds Some Responsibility for Selling Defective Products in Florida
The retail store has a responsibility to ensure that its inventory is filled with products that are safe for people to use, even if it didn’t manufacture any of its items. This is called Implicit Warranty, which is a valid ground for a product liability claim.
Here are three things to remember when filing a claim against a retailer:
- A plaintiff doesn’t have to be the buyer of the defective product. For example, there is a valid product liability claim if you were injured by a defective car, even if you were only renting it. Depending on certain circumstances, such as how it was maintained over the years or the original design of the car, you can sue the rental company or the manufacturer for damages.
- A plaintiff doesn’t have to be the user of the defective product either. If you sustained injuries from a blade that flew loose from a defective lawn mower that was being tested for you by a salesperson, then that is also a valid ground for a product liability claim.
- You might be awarded compensation for buying used goods. This is a new and developing area of the law, which states that you can still sue the manufacturer of the defective product, even if you weren’t the original purchaser of the item. This is true, especially for products bought as second-hand. However, cases like this are very rare and vary from one case to the next.
Are You Looking For a Personal Injury Lawyer in Florida to Help You with a Product Liability Claim?
The adverse effects of defective products may not always be apparent from the onset. This is especially true with chemical-based products, which may take years for its negative impact to be fully felt. If you or someone you know has sustained injuries and other losses due to defective products, contact your personal injury lawyer immediately.
Shiner Law Group is a law office in Florida specialized in all sorts of personal injury claims. We represent all clients who have sustained injuries and losses due to other people’s negligence. Get in touch with us today and let us help you get the compensation you deserve!
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