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New Jersey Dangerous Products Law: Failure to Warn

Passed in 1987, New Jersey's Products Liability Act can be found at N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-1 through 7. As in many other states, manufacturers and sellers of products have a duty to make and sell reasonably safe products, fit for their intended or reasonably forseeable uses. Potential defendants owe this duty to not only the direct user of a given product, but also reasonably forseeable users, as well as those who would reasonably be expected to come into contact with the product.

There are three ways for someone injured by a dangerous, defective product to prove that the product was not reasonably safe for its intended purpose: (1) manufacturing defects, (2) failure to warn and (3) defective design. This article will discuss failure to warn cases only. Our last article in the series will discuss defective design cases.

Put simply, if a product fails to provide adequate warnings or instructions, it is defective. Under New Jersey law, a manufacturer or seller of a product has a duty to provide adequate warnings and instructions about the dangers the product may present. This duty is absolute. Even if a manufacturer makes a perfect product, it is still under a duty to provide warnings about the dangers inherent in using the product.  This duty may also apply to situations in which a consumer alters a product or misuses it and that alteration or misuse is reasonably forseeable.

Warnings or instructions are generally statements that a particular good should not be used under certain circumstances, that it should only be used a particular way, or that it should be used with care. Warnings can be written or may come in the form of symbols or pictures.

Adequate warnings must be the kind of warning that a reasonably prudent manufacturer or seller in the same situation would give to the consumer of the product.   Also, an adequate warning communicates sufficient information on the dangers of the product and how to use the product safely.  In some situations, adequate instructions may be required to be given in the chain of distribution - or from the manufacturer to the seller to the buyer/user.

The adequacy of warnings issue often comes up in situations in which the warning is silent about dangers of the product.  A common defense is  that the particular danger was not anticipated when the product was manufactured or sold.  However, under New Jersey law, a manufacturer or seller of a product has a duty to warn about dangers of a product if the manufacturer/seller knew or should have known about the danger.  Also, manufacturers/sellers have duties to be reasonably familiar with industry standards and be up to date with literature in the field of the product.  Information from consumers, complaints and even prior injuries play important roles in these cases.

Under New Jersey law, to make out a failure to warn claim, the injured victim must prove the following: 1. the product did not contain an adequate warning and 2.  the failure to warn existed before the product left the manufacturer/seller's control.  In order to prevail, the injured victim must also prove that she was using the product properly.  If she misuses the product or substantially alters the product in such a way that was not reasonably forseeable, then the claim would be barred.

In the next and final installment of this series on New Jersey products liability law, we'll discuss other types of dangerous products claims-design defect claims.

If you've been injured by a dangerous, defective product, it is vital that you speak to a qualified, experienced New Jersey/Pennsylvania dangerous products lawyer. The team at White and Williams has handled many dangerous products cases and has achieved much success. We serve all accident victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and always offer a free consultation. 1-877-944-8396

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