The Legal Information Institute at Cornell University defines Product liability as “liability of any or all parties along the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product. This includes the manufacturer of component parts (at the top of the chain), an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner (at the bottom of the chain).
Products containing inherent defects that cause harm to a consumer of the product, or someone to whom the product was loaned, given, etc., are the subjects of products liability suits. While products are generally thought of as tangible personal property, products liability has stretched that definition to include intangibles (gas), naturals (pets), real estate (house), and writings (navigational charts).”
The institute further explains that the grounds for a product liability claim include negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability. Though problems might arise due to no fault from the manufacturer or distributor of a product, they are held liable if the product causes death or injury to consumers.
How are Product Liability Laws Enforced
Product liability is enforced by the law. When the product is linked with deaths or injuries to humans or damage to property, affected individuals can file lawsuits against the manufacturer of the product or the distributor, or any other entity within the product’s chain of production or sale. If the law successfully establishes a convincing link between the product and the reported deaths, injuries or damages, the manufacturer or distributor is ordered to pay damages to the affected parties. The company will also be ordered to recall all defective products from the market.
Most companies at some time or another will have to recall defective products. If the defective product is recognized immediately and the company quickly recalls the product before any injury, death, or property damage is caused, then the company will have escaped lawsuits that usually occur where there is injury or death.
However, if the defective product leads to injuries, deaths, or damage to people’s property, the manufacturer or major distributor will be held liable in a court of law for manufacturing or selling a defective product that resulted in injuries or deaths. In such cases, companies usually settle the issues outside of court to avoid serious or even irreparable damage to the company’s brand and reputation.
In addition, some companies are genuinely concerned about the safety of their customers, and about how their products have adversely affected the lives of their customers. Such companies usually rise quickly to the situation and assist affected customers as quickly as possible. This measure usually “seals off” any plans by the affected customers to file lawsuits. However, some of these cases still end up in court, and victims have been granted huge awards in damages.
On the other hand, however, there are times when companies hesitate or refuse to recall defective products even after they have been made aware of the defects in their products. Companies fall into this trap because they do not want to shoulder the financial consequences of recalling defective products. When this happens, both civil and criminal charges are usually mounted.
How are Product Liability Laws Enforced – A Case Study of Toyota
For example, Toyota automobile company was once forced by the law to recall many of its cars due to a problem with acceleration. The recall occurred after the company had received several complaints about the problem and even after many people have been reportedly injured and even killed due to the defect. If only the company had acted promptly, the defective cars would have been recalled at the first indication that a problem existed.
It was later revealed that Toyota not only knew what was causing the problem but also attempted to do a recall involving the floor mats because that would be less expensive than fixing the real problem. The company believed it would save a lot of money and would be able to stop regulators from further investigations into the matter if they attributed the problem to the vehicle’s floor-mats.
Because of Toyota’s laxity, the company has and will continue to run into legal problems. In addition to lawsuits related to product liability, Toyota has since faced a lot of scrutiny from the government of the united states and has been the subject of many U.S. senate hearings into why the company took so long to recall the defective vehicles. Toyota’s conduct in the whole issue made it obvious that the company wanted to protect its name by fending off lawsuits rather than quickly recalling defective products and fixing the acceleration problem.
In the end, the whole issue only hurt Toyota’s brand name—the same end result they were trying to prevent. For many years, the company has been known for high quality, reliable, and durable products. But because of the recall issue, the value and quality of Toyota’s vehicles is now widely questioned, especially in the United States, which is one of the company’s biggest markets.
If the law had not allowed for lawsuits to be filed against problem products, there would have been no way to hold Toyota responsible for the injuries and deaths caused by their products.