Most personal injury claims are brought as a claim of negligence, asserting that you were harmed as the result of another person acting carelessly, or “negligently.” Claims based on defective drugs or defective products are quite different. In these cases, you do not need to prove that the product manufacturer or drug manufacturer was careless or negligent. You can hold a manufacturer responsible regardless of whether they exercised the proper degree of care.
Dog Bite Cases
In dog bite cases, California has enacted a statute that creates strict liability for dog bites. In California, if a dog bites someone and that person in a public place or while that person is lawfully in a private place, the dog owner is strictly liable (fully responsible) for all injuries and financial damages. This is discussed in detail on our dog bite page. The remainder of this page is limited to a discussion of strict liability in matters involving defective or dangerous products. If you were the victim of a bite or animal attack, a dog bite attorney can explain your rights and remedies under the California statute.
Strict Liability for Defective or Dangerous Products
As a matter of public policy, personal injury law holds product manufacturers and drug manufacturers strictly liable for defective or unreasonably dangerous products or defective or dangerous drugs that they release into the market. All your injury attorney has to show is that the product or drug that harmed you was in a defective or unreasonably dangerous condition when it left the manufacturer’s hands. The entire chain of distribution can be held accountable for your injuries, from the manufacturer, to the distributer, to the retail seller of the defective or dangerous product.
Manufacturer Is Accountable
In order to hold a product manufacturer or drug manufacturer accountable for your injuries or loss under the rule of strict liability, your injury lawyer will need to establish that: (1) the product or drug was in a defective or unreasonably dangerous condition (or had an unreasonably dangerous design) at the time that it left the manufacturer’s hands; (2) you were injured as a result of the defect or unreasonably dangerous condition; and (3) you were using the product in the normal way it was intended to be used. The last requirement, using the product in the way it was intended to be used, is often a contested issue in a personal injury case since a product may be safe if used in the way it was intended to be used but may become very unsafe and dangerous if not used in the manner that it was intended to be used. For example, if you used a glass coffee pot to heat up some soup on your stove and the glass cracks and you suffer a severe burn injury, then you may not be able to hold the manufacturer of the glass coffee pot accountable under the rule of strict liability.
Retail Store Is Accountable
In order hold a retail store or retail seller who sold you a defective product or drug accountable for your injuries or loss, you need to establish that the retail store or retail seller is regularly engaged in the selling of the defective product or defective drug. A retail store who sells a product just one time may not be accountable. Strict liability generally applies to retailers only when the retailer is regularly selling the product.
Distributer Is Accountable
Similar to retail stores, distributors are only responsible under the rule of strict liability if the distributor is regularly engaged in the distribution of the defective product or defective drug. Because manufacturers usually use the same distributor to transport their products to retail stores, in most cases a distributor will also be accountable for your injuries.
Chain of Distribution
The rule of strict liability aims to hold the entire chain of distribution of the defective or dangerous item accountable. All parties, from the manufacturer, to all distributors, to the end retail store that sells the product are responsible under the rule of strict liability.
Product as a Gift
If you were given a defective product as a gift and have been injured by the defective product, you can still sue all people in the chain of distribution. The fact that you did not purchase the product is of no consequence. The rule of strict liability protects any person who is given a defective product as a gift.
Similar to gifts, if you borrowed a defective product from someone and were injured by it, you can bring a personal injury claim under the rule of strict liability. The rule of strict liability protects all end users, including both a person who is given the product as a gift and a person who borrows a defective product and uses it.