In 1987, New Jersey passed the Products Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-1 through 7. As in many other states, manufacturers and sellers of products have a duty to make or 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 defective product to prove that the product was not reasonably safe for its intended purpose.
This kind of defect occurs when the product is being manufactured or while in the defendant's control. The injured person must prove that the defect rendered the product unsafe and that the unsafe aspect caused or led to the injury. This theory has been called the "one in a million" theory. That is, that the defect occurred in one out of many products. Usually, this is proven by comparing a product as it should be with the product in the case. In cases of a manufacturing defect, there will be a difference between the product involved in the lawsuit and the product as it is supposed to be when it leaves the manufacturer. The injured person doesn't have to prove that the defendant knew of the defect or caused it to occur. It is simply enough that the product left the manufacturing process in a defective state.
A good example is the manufacture of aluminum bike frame. If a manufacturing flaw results in an air pocket or other imperfection at a stress point in the frame, a catastrophic failure may result in everyday use of the bike. Even though the design may be sound, the presence of the air pocket or other imperfection during manufacture results in a defective, dangerous product. Imagine an experienced bicyclist, who through no fault of his own, gets thrown from his bike while riding 20 miles per hour. The injuries can be critical.
HOW TO PROVE A MANUFACTURING DEFECT
There are three main ways to prove the existence of a manufacturing defect. First, you can point to the product itself and show the actual defect. Second, you can infer the defect from the circumstances and facts. Last if all other causes are ruled out, a jury or factfinder can infer a defect. These last two ways can be difficult, but are not impossible to do. Their success depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. In the example of a metal bike frame, if the frame fails and is then destroyed or lost through no fault of the victim, then a sudden failure in the bike leads to an inference of a defect. In some situations, proving that there were prior accidents involving the same product can also lead to the inference of the defect.
In the next two installments of this series on New Jersey products liability law, we'll discuss other types of dangerous products claims-failure to warn and design defect cases.
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