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Products liability law overview

It seems that product liability lawsuits have become more and more ubiquitous these days. So what exactly does product liability mean? Simply put, products liability references the party that is held liable by law for any harm or damage that is inflicted by a product on the user of that product. Often this distinction is not just relegated to one entity but any and all parties that are part of the chain of manufacture of the product in question.

Depending on the type of product, this can be quite a long chain that can include the manufacturer or manufacturers, if there is more than one, that builds the individual components that make up the product. Typically the more intricate and complex the product is, the longer this list will be.

Next on the manufacturing chain is the assembling manufacturer. Since they are responsible for integrating all the individual components into a fully functioning product, they too can be held liable for any damage inflicted by the product. Even the wholesalers and the retail stores can be held liable and are not exempt from product liability lawsuits.

Typically, subjects of product liability lawsuits tend to be the users of the product that were harmed because the product had an inherent defect that caused the product to malfunction and cause injuries. Also keep in mind that, while in the majority of the cases the products are typically tangible and physical property, that is not necessarily the case every time. Product liability cases can be brought up on intangible merchandise like gas and electricity, real estate and even writings like instructional manuals and navigational charts.

Source: Cornell University Law School, "Product Liability," LII, accessed June 1, 2015

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