Products liability is a type of personal injury claim an individual can have in Utah. A products liability claim is when an individual is injured from a product. In order to prevail, the individual has to prove that the product was defective and the defect caused the injury. So if a product is not defective, then an individual cannot recover for damages incurred from the product manufacturer.
Also, if the individual was not using the product the way it is intended, they may not be able to prevail or would be a defense for the manufacturer to avoid liability. Additionally, another defense is that the product was not the same when it left the factory and has had modifications to it. If the manufacturer can prove that the modification was the cause of the injury and not caused by the original product, it could prevail in a claim against it.
Products liability in Utah is actually one of the most liberal civil laws in the United States. Liberal, meaning that the law favors the consumers instead of the manufacturers. There have been many attempts to attack the liberal interpretation of the statute with the Utah Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court has always come back and noted the purpose and intent of the statute and how its purpose is to protect Utah consumers.
There is a small time-frame on products liability cases too with the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is only two years. This may seem like a long time, but in legal years, this is actually pretty short. A person may not even know they have a products liability case until that time has lapsed. So it is important to be proactive with the case. The statute of limitations can also be “tolled” or in other words, put on pause until when a person learns that they were injured from a defective product. So if it takes three years to learn that the injury was from a defect in the product, the statute of limitations would start the day when the person learns that it was due to a defect.
In order to prevail under a products liability case for personal injury in Utah, one has to prove that the product was defective. In order to prove the product was defective, an individual must show that the product was “unreasonably dangerous.” The definition of unreasonably dangerous is found under the Utah products liability statute:
“Unreasonably dangerous” means that the product was dangerous to an extent beyond which would be contemplated by the ordinary and prudent buyer, consumer, or user of that product in that community considering the product’s characteristics, propensities, risks, dangers, and uses together with any actual knowledge, training, or experience possessed by that particular buyer, user, or consumer.
Utah Code Sec. 78B-6-702. So under the definition, the test is what a consumer would expect from the product. If the defect is beyond what a consumer would expect then the product is unreasonably dangerous. There was a lawnmower case where an individual was injured from the blades of the lawnmower in Federal Court. In that case, the court concluded that the blades of the lawnmower was a danger and risk that an ordinary buyer would contemplate and the injured person could not prevail.
However, there are some products that have unknown risks to consumers where an individual could prevail. For example, a few years prior Boeing came out with the 737 Max Airliner. Two of those planes crashed right after production. The defense for Boeing was to put the blame on the pilots and their lack of training. The crashes were due to a failure in a faulty malfunctioning flight control system.
Boeing claimed that pilots were trained with their planes on what to do when the flight control system crashed. An investigation found it was in a defect to the design of the computer system. It would be hard for Boeing to prevail in that instance and blame the pilots on a new airplane that had a faulty control system and under Utah law, a judge would most likely find the flight control system unreasonably dangerous for consumers based on the risks and dangers from the faulty control system.
There are also products liability cases related to a failure to warn standard. A lot of drug cases with unknown defects can stem from this. For example, if there is a drug that has a known side-effect or known not to mix with certain other drugs, drug manufacturers are required to adequately warn the consumer of known risks either through a conspicuous warning on a drug label, or through the doctor or pharmacist. If an individual is not warned of the risks and side-effects, and the person suffers from those side-effects, they could prevail as the failure to warn extends beyond what an ordinary and prudent consumer could contemplate. These cases can also include medical devices used on patients.
There are also two different types of defects. There is design defect, where the product and how it was designed was defective, such as a faulty design for a computer system on an airplane. There is also a manufacturing defect, where even though most of the products worked properly, for whatever reason, one product was not assembled to proper specifics like all of the other products.
However, again, the person injured from the product must prove that the injury occurred due to a defect that occurred while in the hands of a manufacturer or distributor. If a product is older and worn down that has been around for quite a few years, the manufacturer could claim it wasn’t due to a defect but due to wear and tear or other unknown elements that the manufacturer was not aware.
If an individual prevails, showing that the product was defective, then the manufacturer is held strictly liable. Not only the manufacturer, but all entities that were involved in the distribution and selling of the product. So an individual could file suit against the company that manufactured it, as well as the company that eventually sold it, such as the car dealership or grocery store.
This is setup to ensure that consumers are able to get all the compensation needed for their personal injury. A person can recover for medical bills and expenses, for lost wages and benefits for anytime lost off of work, they can also recover for pain and suffering due to the injury past and future as well as damages as to how it affected life activities and relationships with family members. A person can also recover punitive damages, which is like a penalty fee to the company for the manufacturing of a defective product.
In some other states with more conservative laws, individuals have to prove not only that the product was defective, but may also have to prove that there was some kind of negligence on top of the manufacturing. So if the product was defective, but the company wasn’t negligent, then a person cannot prevail. This shows how much more consumer friendly the law is in Utah. Some states also have caps on the amount of damages that you can recover which also isn’t the case in Utah.
An individual who is injured at work from a product may also be able to recover for damages from the product manufacturer on top of their workers compensation benefits for being injured on the job site. This is beneficial for employees as workers compensation usually never covers all the damages that one suffers. It also covers pay for time off work and a small amount of any permanent or partial loss to a body part.
If you think you have been injured from a defective product reach out to our firm today for a consultation and review on the merits of your case.