Every day, people purchase products under the assumption that they are safe to use. Even though manufacturers are expected to warn consumers of any potential hazards and recall their products if they present a serious danger, this isn’t always the case. In fact, defective consumer products are responsible for roughly 23,000 fatalities and 31 million injuries every single year. If you were injured by a dangerous or defective product, you may have a valid claim against the manufacturer to obtain financial compensation for your damages. The experienced Virginia Beach defective product lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have been helping clients obtain justice since 1985. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.
What Is Product Liability?
Product liability is the legal liability incurred by a manufacturer or seller when they make a defective product available to consumers. Since there are no product liability laws at the federal level, although federal laws may be relevant in litigation, each state has its own set of laws that govern lawsuits over defective products. Virginia product liability laws state that:
- A product must be reasonably safe for its intended use.
- If a product is inherently harmful in a way that is not obvious to consumers, the product’s supplier is obligated to warn consumers of the potential danger. Under the state’s product liability laws, failing to issue such a warning could make the supplier liable.
- If the danger is obvious, there is no duty to warn.
- An injured consumer must inform the seller of a faulty product within a reasonable amount of time once they learn about the defect. This “notice” requirement is best left to a skilled Virginia Beach defective product lawyer, but any email or letter notifying a seller or manufacturer of the particular injuries and which of their products was involved may suffice.
- Do you have to be the actual buyer? No, but proof of where and when the item was bought is quite important in many cases.
- You are not strictly required to have or retain the product, but for evidence purposes, it’s far stronger to always retain any such defective product or to have irrefutable evidence (such as a surveillance video or any corroborative evidence)
- You are not required to have a receipt, but again, evidence of purchase, or when/where the item was purchased is important.
What Products Are Commonly Involved in Product Liability Claims?
Over the years, many dangerous products, such as GM ignition switches, Samsung Galaxy 7 phones, and Takata airbags, have made the news after causing serious injury or death to consumers. Other dangerous products that have given rise to product liability claims include:
- Medical devices
- Prescription medications/Over-the-counter medications
- Motor vehicles/Motor vehicle parts
- Car seats/Booster seats
- Sports equipment
- Household appliances
- Personal grooming products
- Electronic devices
Types of Product Defects
In Virginia, nearly all product defect claims must be based on breach of warranty (written or implied) or negligence (in manufacture, design, or similar) relating to the product.
Warranty: Claims can arise from specific product statements in advertising, on commercials, in print ads, on websites, the product box, or in literature as many examples. But Virginia law (and all states) also requires most sales of products to carry “implied” warranties. This means if a company sells a “dicer” the law implies the “dicer” will actually dice, and will be reasonably safe to use as a “dicer,” its usual and intended use.
Negligence: The other form of common defective product claim arises from negligence, which simply means the manufacturer did not follow ordinary care in allowing a product defect or product failure to occur.
It is important that you consult a skilled Virginia defective product lawyer with our firm if you have questions about how warranty law works.
Three types of product defects can result in injury, and these all can arise from a breach of warranty or from negligence law depending on case circumstances. They are:
A product that poses an excessive risk for injury might have a design defect. The crux of a defective design case is demonstrating that the defect makes the product dangerous or more dangerous than necessary. For example, a circular saw is inherently dangerous. If, however, one was designed with a defective blade guard, and consumers were harmed as a result, that could qualify as a design defect. The product is only excessively dangerous because of the design defect.
When a consumer product is built using inferior materials or an assembly line error causes an important step in the manufacturing process to be skipped, and the ensuing defect causes injuries, affected individuals could have a manufacturing defect case.
Marketing defects, also known as failure to warn defects, primarily pertain to inaccurate or inadequate warning labels on products, their packaging, or their various inserts. It is not against the law to sell dangerous products. It is easy enough to purchase firearms, power tools, cigarettes, and alcohol. In these cases, consumers are unlikely to be able to sue the manufacturer if they are injured while using an inherently dangerous product. A purchaser could, on the other hand, potentially sue if they were injured by a danger they were not warned about.
For example, all medication has the potential to be dangerous. If you take an irresponsible amount of headache medicine and end up in the hospital, that is a risk you could have easily foreseen. However, if you take a medication that has omitted warnings of possible adverse side effects or contraindications, this could qualify as a failure to warn defect.
Product liability cases center on the legal theory of strict liability. This means it is not necessary to prove that the manufacturer was knowingly or deliberately negligent when labeling, manufacturing, or designing their product. The fact that it was defective and resulted in injury is ample justification for pursuing damages. In other words, the legal steps to prove strict liability are less than standard product liability warranty or negligence claims, but Virginia does not recognize strict liability theories of liability except for very few types of defect claims.
How Long Do I Have to File a Product Liability Claim in Virginia?
When someone is injured by a defective product in Virginia, they generally have two years from the day the injury occurred to file a lawsuit. Once the two-year deadline has passed, the case will almost certainly be dismissed. There are a few exceptions that would allow the statute to be extended, such as if the victim is a minor or is mentally incapacitated. It is in your best interests to contact a qualified Virginia Beach defective product lawyer after an injury to determine how long you have to file given your specific circumstances.
Were You Injured By a Defective Product?
Proving that a product is defective is challenging, and manufacturers often fight aggressively to discredit the claims of injured consumers. These cases also usually involve multiple liable parties, making settlement negotiations more complicated. If you were harmed by a defective product, the experienced Virginia Beach defective product lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help. With more than 50 years of combined experience, we have achieved successful outcomes in numerous defective product cases, such as the $2.5 million defective product Norfolk, Virginia verdict we secured for a client who was killed after his ride-on lawnmower burst into flames.
Experience matters, and how? Well, in this case, firm attorney Richard N. Shapiro worked with co-counsel tirelessly to build evidence of the way the ride-on lawnmower has a defect in the fuel line, which could cause the fuel line to detach from the fuel tank, spewing gas along the metal base of the mower. Shapiro is a rare personal injury attorney who has personally designed products, holds 18 U.S. patents, and foreign patents, and has himself worked with engineers to design consumer products (which he invented). So, both practical and legal experience combined to help the family of our client in that product defect case which resulted in a Norfolk federal district court verdict for our clients.
Call us at (833) 997-1774 or fill out our quick online contact form to schedule your free consultation. Our offices are located in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Hampton, Chesapeake, and Norfolk.
Rick Shapiro has practiced personal injury law for over 30 years in Virginia, North Carolina, and throughout the Southeastern United States. He is a Board-Certified Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (ABA Accredited) and has litigated injury cases throughout the eastern United States, including wrongful death, trucking, faulty products, railroad, and medical negligence claims. During his three-decade career, Shapiro has won client appeals before the VA Supreme Court, VA Court of Appeals, NC Supreme Court, SC Supreme Court, WV Supreme Court, TN Supreme Court, and three times before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, underscoring Shapiro’s trial achievements. In addition, he and his law firm have won settlements/verdicts in excess of $100 million. His success in and out of the courtroom is a big reason why he was named 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in railroad law in U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers publication (Norfolk, VA area), and he has been named a “Best Lawyer” and “Super Lawyer” by those peer-reviewed organizations for multiple years. Rick was also named a “Leader in the Law, Class of 2022” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly (total of 33 statewide honorees consisting of lawyers and judges across Virginia). And in September 2023, Rick was selected as a recipient of the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) 2023 President’s Award. Although many nominations were submitted from across the country, Rick was just one of eight attorneys chosen by the prestigious National Board which certifies civil trial attorneys across the U.S. Rick was also recently named to Virginia Lawyers Weekly 2024 Virginia’s Go To Lawyers Medical Malpractice. The attorneys awarded this honor are nominated by their colleagues and chosen by a panel from the publication.