Do You Have To Use A Defective Product To Sue For Damages And Other Product Liability Questions

When thinking about whether to file a lawsuit against a manufacturer of a defective product, you'll likely have a lot of questions about the process. Although each situation is different, here are the answers to a few common questions people have about defective product lawsuits to help you determine the best way to handle your case.

Question #1: Is It True the Plaintiff Doesn't Actually Have to Buy or Use the Product to Sue for Damages?

Answer: There's a common misconception that only people who have purchased a product and/or used it have standing (i.e., the right) to sue a manufacturer for damages caused by a defective product. This is not true. You don't have to purchase the product and you don't actually have to be the user to have a claim. The only requirement is that you interacted with the product in a way that resulted in you being injured or suffering losses.

For instance, your neighbor purchases a chainsaw and a piece breaks off the device and hits you while he or she is using it. You can still sue the manufacturer for damages if the piece broke off because of a defect, even though you didn't buy the appliance and weren't using it at the time you were injured.

Don't automatically assume you have no case just because you didn't buy the product under dispute or weren't using it at the time it caused injury. Discuss your situation with an attorney who can determine whether your case has merit and how best to proceed.

Question #2: Can You Still Sue for Damages If You Purchased the Product Used?

Answer: Another misconception about defective product lawsuits is that people can't sue for damages if they purchased the product used. The truth is that you can still seek compensation for damages, but whether you'll win your case will depend on the nature of the defect and the circumstances of the purchase.

If the defect was present during the manufacturing process and the manufacturer never revealed the presence of the problem, then you shouldn't experience any problems getting the okay from the court to proceed with your case. For instance, the Takata faulty airbag scandal affected 13 automakers whose vehicles included the defective part that caused the airbag to mistakenly deploy at lower speeds. It's estimated at least 37 million vehicles are affected, and you can be sure some owners purchased their cars and trucks used. Thus, even though the vehicle wasn't new when they purchased it, those owners would still have a case against the manufacturer.

On the other hand, if the defect was made public enough that you should've known there was a possibility you could have purchased a bad item, then you may have trouble winning a case against the manufacturer. You may have a case against the supplier or seller of the item if they misrepresent the item's safety (e.g., that the defect was repaired). However, you likely couldn't include the manufacturer on a case like this.

Question #3: What If the Manufacturer Is Headquartered in a Foreign Country?

Answer: Foreign companies that do business in the United States agree to be subjected to the laws in this country. If the company has an office or store in the US or even markets their products and services to American customers, they can be placed under the jurisdiction of a US court and made to answer a lawsuit.

While you can still sue a foreign company that doesn't do business in the US for damages, the process is much more challenging. It's best to consult with an attorney for details about what it takes to hold a foreign entity liable for defective products and advice on the best way to handle this type of case.

For more information about this issue or help litigating your case, contact a law firm like Lee Eadon Isgett Popwell & Owens.