Kentucky Product Liability
By the time a product reaches you, it has been designed by one or more companies, manufactured by one or more companies, packaged, shipped, probably handled by one or more wholesalers, transported between locations, and stocked/sold by a retailer.
While most of our products are safe, when one turns out to be defective enough to cause a consumer’s injury or death, it can be very, very hard to establish which of these many entities is responsible. No matter how diligent we are, though, the fact is that consumers are virtually powerless to identify which products are defective before the defect manifests itself in an accident of some kind.
Kentucky, like all other states, has a set of laws that describe who can be held legally responsible for the injuries and deaths caused by defective products.
Types of Defects
The Kentucky products liability statute includes a lengthy list of the various tasks associated with products that can support a products liability suit (design, manufacture, assembly, processing, testing, instructing, and many others). In practical terms, however, the types of defects that support a products liability claim are considered to be:
- Defective design: Essentially this means that the very design—the shape, size, materials, etc.—made the product unsafe even if the manufacturing process produced exactly what it was intended to produce.
- Defective manufacturing: This means that the process of turning the design into a tangible product introduced a defect (use of material weaker than intended, failure to sufficiently tighten connections, etc.).
- Defective instructions that accompany the product: The directions on how to use the product safely, and describing the known dangers of other uses, were not adequate to give consumers the information they needed. (Note that not all consumers receive the exact same instructions; some may have been adequately instructed while others were not—this can become very complicated.)
Most defective design and defective manufacture claims require considerable expert testimony.
Note that a design defect is present if something in the product’s design makes it “unreasonably dangerous.” Design defect liability requires proof of a feasible alternative design.
Alteration or Misuse of the Product
If the product was altered after its purchase, and/or was being misused at the time of the injury, you won’t likely be entitled to recover damages unless your attorney can establish that the injury was still caused by a defect that existed totally apart from the alteration or misuse. That’s a steep hill to climb, however.
Three Theories of Liability
When a defective product causes injury or death, the law recognizes three separate grounds for a lawsuit:
- Strict liability, in which you only have to show that the product was defective and was released into the stream of commerce where it was destined to reach the hands of consumers.
- Negligence, which requires that you prove exactly who did something that caused the product to be defective.
- Breach of warranty, which requires that the product came with a warranty that it was suitable for specific uses and circumstances when it was not, in fact, safe for those uses and circumstances.
Presumptions That Apply in Kentucky Product Liability Claims
Kentucky’s product liability law specifically presumes, until proven otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence, that a product is not defective if:
- The damages caused by the product occurred (1) more than five years after it was first sold to a consumer, or (2) more than eight years after the date the product was manufactured.
- The product’s design, manufacture, and testing all conformed to state of the art or the prevailing standards at the time these functions were performed.
Once you establish that there was a defect in the product that caused your injury and establish how much that injury has damaged you, you’re entitled to recover that amount. Typical product liability damages include your medical expenses, the income you have lost already and will lose in the future, and any pain, suffering, and loss of your quality of life that you have experienced. Even punitive damages, designed to punish the defendant rather than simply compensate you for your losses, may be recovered under some circumstances if the act or omission that led to your injury was especially egregious.
Who Can Be Held Responsible?
As a general statement, liability for damages can be imposed on anyone who was involved with designing, making, testing, distributing and selling of the defective product. In practical terms, the law is more reluctant to impose liability on those who merely moved the product through the stream of commerce, unless they have done something specific to make the product defective. It’s more likely that liability will, in most cases, fall on the manufacturer. The exception is when others have done something specific to cause the problem, like modifying the product, damaging it during transportation, and the like.
For example, the Kentucky products liability statute specifically lets wholesalers, distributors, and retailers off the hook if (a) the manufacturer is known and subject to the court’s jurisdiction; and (b) they show by a preponderance of the evidence that they sold the product as it was supplied to them by the manufacturer. However, they can still be held responsible if (a) they breached an express warranty or (b) knew or should have known that the product was defective.
The Legal Help You Need
These cases are almost always complex and technical, and the more complex the product involved, the more complex the case is likely to be. An experienced Kentucky product liability lawyer can speed the process up and increase the likelihood of successfully recovering your damages. The attorneys at Lowder & McGill, PLLC, in Bowling Green, Kentucky have successfully handled numerous personal injury cases, including many based on defective products. We have access to industrial engineers and other experts who we bring on board to assist in the technical aspects of your case and to testify on your behalf when necessary. We are known for our focus, persistence, and dedication to our clients’ needs at every step of the legal process, as well as our willingness and skill in preparing a case for trial and presenting it to a jury.
Call Lowder & McGill today and arrange for a free consultation on your product liability claim. There is no fee unless we succeed in recovering money for you.