Posted by Marc G. Brecher on 02/25/2019

Who Pays Damages in a Product Liability Claim?

Who Pays Damages in a Product Liability Claim?

Dangerous products are everywhere, with defects occurring in areas ranging from medical devices that fail to airbags that explode in a car crash. Sometimes people wind up seriously injured or die as a result.

According to Pennsylvania law, if you have been injured and someone else is responsible, that party owes you compensationWhen people are harmed by defective products, they may be awarded “damages” from the responsible party in a product liability case. When a product causes harm, anyone in the chain of distribution of a defective product may be responsible, including the manufacturer, the manufacturer of component parts, the wholesaler, the distributor and the retail store which sold the product.

Three Categories of Product Liability


Generally, product liability cases may be placed into three categories: manufacturing defect, design defect, and failure to warn.

1) Manufacturing defect – flaws or defects that occur in the manufacturing process and may involve poor quality materials or shoddy workmanship. These cases are the easiest to prove, since the manufacturer’s own design standards can be used to show that the product was defective.

2) Design Defects – occur when the design is flawed and the product is unreasonably dangerous even though it is carefully manufactured and meets the manufacturer’s own design standards.

3) Failure to Warn – arises when a product has a non-obvious danger that could be avoided through adequate warnings to the user.

Who is Accountable?

A negligence claim against a manufacturer can be brought because the manufacturer has a duty to carefully design, produce or market its products. A claim could be brought against a seller if it knew or had reason to know that the product was defective or dangerous and sold it anyway.

However, proving that harm was caused because the manufacturer did something wrong or proving that the seller knew the product was defective, can be difficult. The principle of “strict liability” makes it easier for an injured person to recover damages.

Under strict liability, the plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant was negligent or had intent to injure. It must only be shown that:

  • the product was defective because a “reasonable person” would conclude that the probability and seriousness of harm caused by the product outweighs the burden or costs of taking precautions,
  • the defect made the product dangerous beyond the reasonable consumer’s expectations, and
  • the defect caused injury.

What damages can I receive?

In Pennsylvania, compensated costs and losses fall into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are expenses which can be objectively calculated, such as medical, therapy, equipment, and rehabilitation costs, lost income, property damage, and funeral and burial costs.

Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, the loss of enjoyment of life, and the loss of a marital relationship (consortium).

The jury or the judge in a bench trial decides the amount of damages based on the details and circumstances of your case, such as how badly you were harmed, how carelessly the other party acted, how much pain and suffering you endured, and the cost of your medical care.  If you are seriously injured, need surgery, have large medical bills, miss a great deal of time from work, or are unable to work again, your product liability case is worth more money.

In rare cases, victims may be awarded “punitive damages,” which are designed to punish defendants who have behaved recklessly in order to discourage people from engaging in the same kind of harmful behavior in the future.

The rules relating to product liability are complex and somewhat different than those applied to other types of personal injury cases. It is important to consult an experienced product liability lawyer to examine the facts of your case and make sure you receive the settlement you deserve.

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