Business owners generally owe their success to the reputation of their business – a reputation that can easily be tarnished if it is known for producing or selling defective products. There’s a lot of talk about businesses caring only about the bottom line and not about consumers; however, business owners know that producing quality goods that benefit the consumer also benefits the bottom line. This is why successful businesses are proactive in their approach to potential product liability claims.
Products Liability Claims Overview
Products liability claims can cost not only a business’ reputation, but can also bankrupt the business if the claim is steep enough. According to Wisconsin Law, a product can be defective in several ways, such as:
- Manufacturing defects – the product departs from its intended design despite the exercise of all due care in the manufacturing process.
- Design defects – a reasonable alternative design could have prevented the foreseeable risk of harm.
- Inadequate warnings or instructions – a reasonable instruction or warning could have prevented injury.
A consumer can bring a products liability claim in Wisconsin against:
- A manufacturer
- A distributor
- A seller
- A promoter of the product
Costs to defend a product liability suit can be high, even if the claim never makes it to trial. Expert fees, attorney’s fees, and settlement amounts can quickly drain a company’s bank account.
Defending a Product Liability Claim
If you are a business owner and you find yourself having to deal with a product liability claim, keep in mind the following defenses that may be available to you to either dismiss the claim or reduce your liability for damages.
- Defendant was intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance.
- The product conformed to Federal and State regulatory standards at the time of sale.
- The defendant was partially the cause of their injuries.
- The product is by nature inherently dangerous.
Warning Labels Aren’t Enough – Start Thinking Liability at the Design Stage
Courts don’t look too kindly on companies slapping an extensive warning label on a product that was clearly designed without a thought to user safety. In fact, recent court decisions have favored consumers for engaging in activities with a product that had explicit warnings against the activity on the label.
Additional safety measures that a business can adopt to prevent products liability claims or protect itself from a claim include:
- Keep detailed notes of the design process – include discussions of safety features throughout development.
- Consider alternative designs that might render a product safer.
- Maintain evidence showing that the product materially complied with standards, conditions, or specifications adopted or approved by regulatory bodies.
- Hire an attorney to help you map out exposure risks.
If you have questions about your products or have been served with a product liability claim, our team of Wisconsin product liability attorneys at the Kerkman Wagner & Dunn is ready to help. Contact us online today or call us at (414) 278-7000.