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Who’s Responsible When You Sustain an Injury Using a Product?

The Haslam Firm July 12, 2023

Several of the nation’s biggest corporate entities have been sued for defective or dangerous products that caused harm to consumers. General Motors was sued twice in class actions in 1999 and again in 2008. Tobacco maker Philip Morris was sued in 2002, and the company was ordered to pay $28 billion in damages for failing to warn that cigarettes can cause cancer. The award, however, was reduced on appeal to $28 million.  Who can forget the Ford Pinto litigation when Ford admitted that they calculated the number of Americans that may suffer fatal burn injuries from rear end collisions and bought their idea of equivalent insurance to pay for the deaths and burns, and sold the defective car anyway.

The list goes on with high-profile class action lawsuits asserting harm, including the Owens Corning Corporation for its asbestos products – $1.2 billion in 1998 – and Dow Corning, $3.2 billion in 1998 for its silicone breast implants, which ruptured and caused bodily damage.  

Those cases grabbed headlines and evening news coverage because of the harm their products were causing, but what if you purchase a toy, tool, or some other product that leads to your personal injury or someone in your family?   

Thankfully, you will have legal options to pursue damages – compensation – from the manufacturer or seller, depending on the circumstances.  

If you or a loved one has been injured or sustained damages due to a faulty product. contact our team at The Haslam Firm. We are product liability attorneys with 25-plus years of experience who are well-versed in all relevant statutes. We prosecuted the YooHoo drink that would explode with the old lids in Indiana and Texas litigation.  We prosecuted the defective boat railing that would amputate fingers in Oklahoma and Texas. The Hammerblow trailer hitch litigation and defective skylight litigation are other examples. Currently, we are prosecuting Snorkel boom lift that was sold without the anti-entrapment safety feature that has been know in the industry since 2004 or earlier.

Product Liability in Texas 

The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 82.001 defines a product liability action as “any action against a manufacturer or seller for recovery of damages arising out of personal injury, death, or property damage allegedly caused by a defective product whether the action is based in strict tort liability, strict products liability, negligence, misrepresentation, breach of express or implied warranty, or any other theory or combination of theories.” 

The section further goes on to define a seller as “a person who is engaged in the business of distributing or otherwise placing, for any commercial purpose, in the stream of commerce for use or consumption a product or any component part thereof,” and a manufacturer as a "designer, formulator, constructor, rebuilder, fabricator, producer, compounder, processor, or assembler of any product or any component part thereof and who places the product or any component part thereof in the stream of commerce.”

In other words, there could be several different people or entities liable for faulty products causing injury and other damages, from the designer to those assembling the product, or any component, to those selling it.  Many times the training is inadequate or safety personnel look the other way to work "hot" or skip safety ropes etc. to get the job done under budget and on time. Not that under budget or on time is bad in itself, but when people are maimed or families lose loved ones just for the claim of speed and saving money on safety, this should be stopped.

Three Main Types of Liability Claims 

In Texas, you have several options for seeking damages for injuries or damages resulting from a faulty product. You can claim it was the result of a defective design, a manufacturing defect, or a failure to warn. Presenting your case and prevailing in your action will be somewhat different for each type of claim.

DEFECTIVE DESIGN: To prevail in a defective design lawsuit, the plaintiff – injured party – must show first that the injuries or damages occurred because of the design and not for other reasons. In addition, the plaintiff must show that: 

  • A less dangerous design could have been implemented.  

  • Using that alternative design would have been reasonable from a financial and technological viewpoint.  

  • The alternative design would still have provided the same standards of use and utility while reducing the possibility of injury or property damage. 

Examples of defective design include a safety latch on a pistol that fails to work or in the case of a vehicle, a faulty gas tank that would explode when rear-ended.

MANUFACTURING DEFECT: A defect in the manufacturing process is usually the result of inadequate quality control or production standards, meaning that a defective product could be a chance event. Proving this can be challenging. An example could be a seat belt in a car that fails to engage and protect the user in a collision. 

FAILURE TO WARN: This type of liability generally results from the manufacturer or seller not providing proper operating or use instructions or failing to warn that harm could result in a certain improper way. Prescription drugs often come with warnings about overuse or misuse, and everyday work tools like drills or saws also usually come with operating instructions and warnings. 

When Is the Seller Liable? 

The Texas Code lists several qualifiers for holding the seller of a product liable:  

  • When the seller participates in the design.  

  • When the seller alters the product, resulting in harm. 

  • When the seller installs the product.  

  • When the seller exercises “substantial control” over the warning or instructions for the product.  

  • When the seller knew of a defect when they sold the product. 

Damages Available and Statute of Limitations 

If you file a civil action for injuries or damages resulting from a faulty product, the Texas Code says you shall be indemnified for your losses, including court costs and other reasonable expenses, attorney’s fees, and your personal damages or injuries.  

Generally speaking, in a personal injury lawsuit, you can be compensated for economic and noneconomic damages. Economic refers to medical and related expenses and wages lost due to your injuries. Noneconomic includes pain and suffering and loss of consortium (companionship).  

In Texas, to file a lawsuit based on a defective product, there is a two-year statute of limitations dating from the time of the injury or damage. 

We Are Here to Help 

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered harm because of a defective product, whether by design, manufacturing, or failure to warn, contact us immediately at The Haslam Firm. Our personal injury/product liability attorneys have decades of experience in helping our client’s right to compensation for injuries and damages suffered.     

Reach out for a free initial consultation. We will discuss your case with you and advise you of your best legal options to seek the just compensation due to you.