What defenses are commonly used against a product liability claim?

Consumers injured by defective or unreasonably dangerous products may be entitled to compensation from the product's manufacturer or seller. However, financial recovery in product liability cases is far from guaranteed. Plaintiffs who file product liability claims often find themselves going head-to-head with high-powered corporate attorneys who are committed to finding ways to reduce their client's financial responsibility. To achieve this goal, product liability defense attorneys may employ a variety of tactics designed to refute the plaintiff's arguments, defeat the claim, or limit their client's legal liability. Defenses in product liability cases

If you're considering taking legal action after sustaining serious injuries from a defective or dangerous product, be prepared for these common product liability claim defenses.

Statutory Defenses

Some state laws such as statutes of limitation or statutes of repose may be offered as defenses in product liability claims.

Statutes of limitation determine exactly how long a would-be plaintiff has to file a particular type of lawsuit. In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for product liability injury cases is one year, so the lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date the injury occurred. Filing a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired will, in most instances, result in the case being thrown out.

While statutes of limitation dictate how long a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit after sustaining an injury, statutes of repose cut off the right of action following the elapse of a specified time frame. This means, you can be barred from bringing a product liability claim, even if your injury has not yet occurred when the statute of repose expires.

Tennessee has a 10-year statute of repose for product liability claims that bars plaintiffs from filing lawsuits against a product's manufacturer or seller if it's been more than 10 years since the product in question was first sold to consumers.

Conduct-Related Defenses

Conduct-related defenses seek to shift the blame for the plaintiff's injuries to his own actions. Examples of conduct-based defenses include those involving:

  • Comparative or contributory negligence. These defenses assert that the plaintiff was at least partially at fault for his own injuries. Because Tennessee follows modified comparative fault rules, plaintiffs who are partially to blame for their injuries can still potentially collect compensation provided their fault in causing the injury is 49% or less.  However, comparative negligence may be used to reduce the amount of damages the plaintiff receives. 
  • Assumption of risk. Product liability attorneys may argue that the plaintiff was aware of the risks surrounding the use of the product in question but chose to voluntarily expose himself to those risks, rather than attempt to avoid them.
  • Product modification or alteration. If the plaintiff or a third party modified or altered the product such as changing the design, construction, or formula or by removing relevant warnings or instructions, it may provide the product manufacturer or seller named in the lawsuit with an effective defense against liability.
  • Product misuse. Attorneys for the defense may argue that the plaintiff was injured while using the product in a way that wasn't intended and couldn't have reasonably been foreseen by its maker.

Other Common Defenses

Product liability defense attorneys may also try to help clients avoid liability or reduce their financial obligations to plaintiffs by claiming that the defendant's product complies with all government or industry standards.

Attorneys may also opt for an “unusually susceptible consumer” defense, which tries to link the plaintiff's injuries to allergies or susceptibilities that couldn't have been foreseen by the manufacturer or seller.

Do You Need a Product Liability Lawyer?

If you were injured by a defective or dangerous product, you may be eligible for compensation. Experienced product liability lawyers can help you address potential defenses that could be used in your case. Contact Holton Law Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your claim with a legal professional.