In product liability litigation, there are different theories of liability plaintiffs can put forward, depending on the facts of the case. These theories include defective design, defective manufacture, and defective labeling, instructions or warnings. In any product liability case, it is necessary for a plaintiff to prove that the product in question was unreasonably dangerous. When the failure to provide warnings to consumers makes a product unreasonably dangerous, and that this caused the plaintiff’s injuries, the manufacturer may be held liable.
The failure to warn theory of liability was on display in a recent Kentucky case, which resulted in an $18.5 million verdict against a treestand manufacturer. The verdict was awarded to a man who was injured while turkey hunting on another man’s land when a treestand fell to the ground, injuring him in the process. The stand had apparently been strapped to the tree five years before.
The man—who had been using the stand along with another man and a child—was found to be 50 percent at fault for his injuries, since he failed to inspect the treestand before using it and for failing to use a safety harness. As a result of the incident, he incurred medical expenses and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering, and these were the bulk of the damages award. The owner and the retailer of the treestand were cleared of liability.
The jury finding that the manufacturer was 50 percent at fault for the man’s injuries was based on its determination that the manufacturer produced an unreasonably dangerous product without providing adequate warning of the risks associated with the use of polypropylene straps to secure the treestand.
Whether a manufacturer’s warnings are adequate is not always an easy argument for plaintiffs. It depends on the nature and extent of the risks of the product in question, as well as the degree of knowledge consumers can be expected to have about the use of the product. For plaintiffs, building a strong case in their favor is not always easy, but working with experienced legal counsel can help ensure a plaintiff has the best possible representation in his or her case.