Product defects, recalls, and your rights under Ohio law
Few people expect all the products they purchase and use to be perfect. However, when a manufacturer or distributor discovers that its merchandise is flawed in a way that could cause serious injury to those who use it, it has a legal duty to warn the public.
Defective products can injure a user in just seconds. From a flawed motorcycle axle that breaks while the driver is cruising at full speed down Interstate 70, to a smartphone user who is severely burned by an exploding phone battery in Beavercreek, to a small child in Dayton who chokes on parts that have broken off a beloved toy, these items can cause permanent injury or even death.
No one should have to face the aftermath of such tragedies alone. The Ohio law firm of Elk & Elk has been protecting the rights of injury victims for decades. Our goal as a firm is to provide aggressive, well-planned and compelling representation so our clients receive compensation for the losses they have suffered. Our attorneys understand that it can be intimidating to go up against a large company to demand justice after an injury from a defective product, but they are ready to fight for you and recover the settlement or award in court that you need.
The devastating impact of defective products
Many types of everyday products can cause significant injury if they contain defects. Common categories of flawed products include:
- Toys, which can present choking hazards, cause cuts and lacerations, or inflict internal injuries from ingestion
- Household products, from vacuums to room-freshening sprays, which can injure by presenting a fire hazard, containing sharp edges that can break off and cause lacerations, or by exposing the user to hazardous chemicals
- Parts for cars and other motor vehicles, such as exploding gas tanks, airbags that fail to deploy in an accident, or a wheel that blows out unexpectedly at top speed
- Industrial machinery and equipment, such as those used in agricultural, manufacturing or construction settings, which can be heavy, complicated and require careful use even under normal circumstances. One flaw in this type of equipment can produce a catastrophic or fatal injury.
Individuals injured by defective products must have access to appropriate medical treatment and rehabilitative services, as well as ongoing care and medications to maintain their recovery. They also frequently need substantial financial compensation to allow them to experience an adequate quality of life after the injury. To ensure that your case delivers these necessities, our lawyers work with experts such as nurses, physicians, economists and accountants to document the impact of your injury and its association with the defective product.
Filing a product liability lawsuit
The litigation process for a product defect claim begins with the filing of your lawsuit. The claim must be filed within two years of the date of the injury. Real estate- and construction-related defects are governed by a separate “statute of repose” that allows plaintiffs up to 10 years to make a claim.
Three types of product defects are recognized in Ohio courts as a basis for compensation claims:
- Defect of manufacture, when a product is built incorrectly
- Defect of design, when the concept for constructing a product is inherently dangerous
- Defect of warning, when a company fails to warn the public about hazards that can arise with normal use of the product
In cases of manufacturing defects, the plaintiff must prove that the company that created the product was negligent in that creation. For defects of design or warning, it is sufficient (thanks to the legal concept of strict liability) for the plaintiff to demonstrate that the product was defective and caused the client’s injury.
If your suit is filed in Dayton, it will likely be entered at the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which handles all civil lawsuits valued at more than $15,000.
Limits to product liability litigation claims
Even if you suffer catastrophic injuries due to a product defect, your ability to claim certain types of losses is limited by Ohio state law. There is no limit on economic (compensatory) damages – for things like lost income/wages, medical bills and the cost of ongoing care – but noneconomic losses (such as pain and suffering and loss of companionship) are limited to the greater of three times the economic loss or $250,000. For each case, the limit on noneconomic losses is $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 per occurrence.
Another limit on product defect claims is imposed by the legal concept of modified comparative fault, which is the standard followed in Ohio. To file a claim, a plaintiff must have been using the defective product as it was intended to be used. Furthermore, the court will determine if your actions put you partially at fault for the accident. If you are found to be 51 percent or more at fault for the accident, you may not file a claim. If you are found to be 50 percent or less at fault for the accident, you may proceed with a lawsuit. However, your award or settlement will be reduced by the percentage that you are found to be at fault. For example, if your award was $100,000 for a defective product lawsuit, but you were found to be 20 percent at fault, you would collect only $80,000 of your award.
How recalls may affect your defective product lawsuit
If a manufacturer is made aware of dangerous flaws in a product, it may choose to recall the product on its own. Federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, also have a legal right to issue recalls.
A recall may or may not help you with proving a product is dangerous. If a judge allows information about the recall to be presented during the trial, the recall may be considered circumstantial evidence of the product’s defectiveness. However, you will still need to demonstrate how the product caused injury to you through photographs, expert analysis and witness statements. If a judge decides that the recall will unfairly prejudice the jury, you may not be allowed to present information on the recall at all.
On the other side of the case, manufacturers that voluntarily issue recalls of products are not automatically absolved of legal responsibility. The defendant in such a case would have to prove that you clearly received warning of the recall or the defective nature of the product, but continued to use it anyway.
An experienced product liability lawyer can provide guidance on the impact of a recall on your case.
Our firm produces real results for our clients
Elk & Elk’s attorneys understand the struggles that our clients go through as they attempt to recover after a personal injury. We are committed to reducing your stress and confusion after a defective product causes a serious or catastrophic injury. We have recovered some of the largest settlements in the state for civil lawsuits, including six- and seven-figure awards for product defect cases.
To learn more about how we can help you with your product defect case, call our firm for a free case review at 1-800-ELK-OHIO or email us.