Can a Disclaimer Invalidate My Defective Product Claim?
Manufacturers and distributors are held to a high standard in producing quality — and safe — products for the American consumer.
If those individuals and entities do not meet those standards, product liability claims may arise.
What is product liability? In Florida, the law (768.81) defines a product liability action as one in which the plaintiff alleges “that injuries received by a claimant in an accident were enhanced by a defective product.” In other words, if an individual or individuals are injured as a result of a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, the product’s manufacturer and/or distributor may be liable for those injuries.
American marketplace standards are such so that consumers can expect a certain level of safety when purchasing goods.
If a child is injured by a defective toy or you are electrocuted by a faulty hair dryer, you may have a products liability claim. Manufacturers are expected, if there are dangerous aspects of a product, to provide clear instructions or direction and to also clearly label on the product any warnings.
So how do disclaimers affect a potential product liability claim or lawsuit?
Disclaimers: Do they disrupt a product liability claim?
A disclaimer in and of itself will not entirely upend a product liability claim or lawsuit. It is not on its own a complete defense to such a lawsuit.
Disclaimers often come in the form as a warning label on the product or packaged in an instruction manual that comes along with the product.
A product manufacturer or distributor has to give basic warnings to consumers if there is a potentially dangerous aspect to the item. They are on the hook for known hazards and hazards that they would be “reasonably expected” to know about, as well.
Such disclaimers or warnings on products, again, do not constitute a well-rounded or complete defense on the part of the manufacturer. These warnings come on children’s toys, often alerting parents or guardians of potential choking hazards, for example.
What if you ignore the disclaimer?
If the warning is clearly labeled, highly visible and plainly written, you will have a harder time winning a products liability claim.
In these cases, one must prove that a manufacturer or distributor was negligent to win. Negligence essentially boils down, in these cases, to a manufacturer or distributor failing to inform consumers of dangers or dangers they could have reasonably expected may arise. Their negligence, then, led to your injuries because of a dangerous or defective product.
Manufacturers are expected to test products for safety and a disclaimer listing myriad risks does not free them of any liability. Simply slapping a disclaimer that is broad and vague on a product does not protect a manufacturer. Such warnings must be clear and specific.
However, if you do not heed the warning from manufacturers and, for example, bring your hair dryer into the shower, you will likely not have a very successful case. In this scenario, a court would likely not deem that to be a “reasonable” action, thus hurting your claim.
Do you have a products liability case?
If you believe you may be eligible for compensation as a result of an injury from a defective or improperly labeled product, contact the lawyers at Boone & Davis law today. We are prepared to assist clients in the Fort Lauderdale area.