At times, companies will initiate recalls of their products on their own or at the behest of a government agency. While it may seem like the company is admitting fault for any injuries or illnesses that a product causes, it doesn’t always work that way.
What Is Product Liability?
Product liability refers to a company’s responsibility for injuries or illnesses its products may cause. A product can harm the end-user as a result of its defective design, defective manufacture, or failure to adequately warn consumers of risks inherent to using the product.
What Happens During a Recall?
Sometimes a defect in a product is discovered by the company or as a result of a referral from a government agency, such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If a company doesn’t issue its own recall to address a defective product, the appropriate government agency might.
During a recall, notices are sent to distributors, retailers, and any known purchasers of the defective products. These notices are also placed online, published in trade journals, and sent to media outlets. The extent of this outreach, though, can depend upon the extent of the recall.
The actual content of the recall notice usually includes the following:
- Make and model of the defective product
- An explanation of the defect
- Dangers posed by the defect
- Information about how consumers can have the product repaired or replaced
The Manufacturer’s Liability During the Recall
As previously stated, a product recall isn’t an inherent admission of fault for any harm a defective product may have caused. It can be used by plaintiffs to establish that the product was defective, but it’s not a magic bullet for winning a product liability lawsuit.
The fact that a recall was issued for a defective product is circumstantial to any plaintiff’s specific claim. Plaintiffs are still responsible for proving that the specific product they purchased was defective, and that its defects were responsible for their injuries.
Conversely, manufacturers can’t use a recall to indemnify themselves against product liability claims. Just as a recall isn’t a magic bullet for a plaintiff to win their lawsuit, it’s also not a shield against liability for the defendant.
The manufacturer must demonstrate that the specific plaintiff directly received a notice of the recall, which adequately warned the plaintiff of the dangers the defective product posed. A broad recall with no effort to make direct contact with consumers, then, is probably not enough for manufacturers to escape liability for a defective product.
Also, when a manufacturer is being sued in a product liability dispute, it can’t defeat the plaintiff’s lawsuit by blaming distributors or retailers for not notifying the plaintiff.
If you believe you have a product liability claim, you can use our free consultation to speak with an attorney and learn more about how Bertram & Graf, L.L.C. can help.
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