When a product defect or failure causes a personal injury or wrongful death, the accident victim (or his or her family, in the event of a fatality) may be able to recover money damages via a product liability lawsuit. In Georgia, the general rule is that a product liability claim must be filed within two years of the date of the accident or within 10 years of the date that the product was first sold. (Of course, it is always best to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about your particular situation, since different or additional deadlines may apply.)
Product liability lawsuits typically involve multiple theories of liability, including defective design, manufacturing defects, or failures to warn. In some cases, strict product liability may be a viable legal theory.
Product Liability Claims Can Arise in Other Cases
It is not uncommon for a person who is injured in, for example, a car crash or an on-the-job accident to have not only a negligence case against a careless driver or a workers' compensation case against an employer but also a product liability claim against the manufacturer, supplier, seller, or component part maker of a defective product that caused or contributed to an accident. It is important to understand that, in Georgia, injured workers do not have an additional negligence case against their employer in the case of a work-related injury, due to what is known as the "Exclusive Remedy Doctrine".
For example, in a recent case filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, the plaintiff was a man who was rendered a paraplegic due to injuries he suffered in an accident involving a boom truck commonly used by tree-trimming companies. According to the plaintiff, the lower boom stub of the truck fractured, causing the bucket of the truck (in which he was standing at the time) to fall to the ground. He filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendant manufacturer and several others, asserting claims of negligence per se, negligent design and manufacturing, and failure to warn. (Although the federal court's legal opinion in the case did not specifically say so, it is possible that the man also had a workers' compensation case, assuming that he worked for a non-exempt employer at the time of the accident.)
One of the defendants, which had been named in the case on the ground that its predecessor had provided a steel tube that was part of the boom truck, filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that neither it nor its predecessor manufactured or placed into the stream of commerce the steel tube at issue. The federal district court granted the motion for summary judgment, agreeing with the defendant that, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff (as is required when considering a motion for summary judgment), no reasonable jury could find that the defendant supplied the steel tube in question.
How the Court's Decision Could Affect the Plaintiff's Monetary Recovery
Here, the plaintiff now has one fewer pocket from which to collect the substantial money damages potentially available in the product liability action. Depending upon the financial condition and the liability insurance limits of the remaining defendants, this could decrease the plaintiff's chances of receiving full compensation. However, given that several defendants remain in this case, the dismissal of a single component part manufacturer is unlikely to have a substantial detrimental effect on the plaintiff's monetary recovery.
Notably, when a workers' compensation claimant is successful in a third-party product liability lawsuit, he or she may be required to reimburse the employer or workers' compensation insurer out of the proceeds of the product liability settlement or judgment. Still, a third-party action is often worth pursuing because the potential compensation available is much less limited than that available in a workers' compensation action.
Have You Been Hurt by a Defective Product?
The Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, handles a wide range of personal injury cases, including those involving spinal cord injuries and paralysis. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case, call 678-894-4758 and ask for a free consultation. Remember that all personal injury and work-related accidents are subject to a statute of limitations; failing to file suit within the time required by law almost always results in the dismissal of an otherwise valid claim.