Consumer products are created to make our lives easier, but they sometimes contain defects that cause harm or serious injury.
In defective consumer product cases, there are multiple avenues to pursue litigation. Parties who may be held liable for defects, flaws, or faulty products can include manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and occasionally even retailers. At Atlee Hall, we seek to hold accountable companies and manufacturers who act in a willfully irresponsible way. With over 30 years of experience defending the rights of consumers in these types of cases, we work tirelessly to ensure justice and win appropriate settlements for clients. We also strive to change product safety standards and improve product safety designs in order to ensure that faulty goods do not harm others.
Learn more about products liability cases
Frequently Asked Questions
Products liability is a claim against a manufacturer, distributor, supplier, or retailer, for placing a defective or dangerous product in the hands of the consumer, which caused the consumer harm. These claims can involve many types of products, including consumer products, medical devices, or vehicles.
In general terms, the law in Pennsylvania requires that a product meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer or that the risks of the product do not outweigh its benefits. When a product has an unexpected defect or danger, the product cannot be said to meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer. Because there is no federal product liability law, typically, product liability claims are based on state laws and brought under the theories of negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty.
Under any theory of liability, a plaintiff in a product liability case must prove that the product that caused injury was defective. There are several types of defects that might cause injury or harm and give rise to manufacturer or supplier liability:
Design Defects – These are present in a product from the beginning, even before the product is manufactured, in that something in the design of the product is inherently unsafe (see m.chimaera/Sorin 3T).
Manufacturing Defects – These occur in the course of a product’s manufacture or assembly (see crashworthiness).
Failure to Warn – By their nature, some products simply cannot be made safer without losing their usefulness, for example, kitchen appliances and construction tools. For such products, the general position is that users and consumers are the best equipped to minimize risk. Manufacturers and suppliers of unavoidably unsafe products must give proper warnings of the dangers and risks of their products so that consumers can make informed decisions and take proper precautions in their use.
The rule that helps plaintiffs in product liability cases is that of strict liability. If strict liability applies, the plaintiff does not need to prove that a manufacturer was negligent, but only that the product was defective. By eliminating the issue of manufacturer fault, the concept of no-fault, or “strict” liability allows plaintiffs to recover where they otherwise might not.
That said, see section 5 below in relation to prescription drugs and medical devices.
Product liability actions can be complex, and establishing legal fault often requires the assistance and testimony of experts. Additionally, every state has its own laws and specific statutes that will affect a product liability action. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury caused by a potentially defective product, an experienced product liability attorney will be able to protect your interests.
This is a very complex question which depends upon the type of medical device or product, the type of prescription drug, and the type of strict liability claim (defect, manufacture, or warning).
In general, pharmaceutical companies are not immune to product liability claims in Pennsylvania for all defective drugs or medical devices.
Pennsylvania law has recognized an exemption from strict liability for prescription drug manufacturers for “unavoidably unsafe products,” or those which bear inherent risks—such as medicines which must be prescribed by a doctor. In prescription drug cases, a drug manufacturer may be sued for failing to adequately warn of dangers or potential complications of a drug.
A less settled question is whether the exemption from strict product liability extends to manufacturers of prescription medical devices. , specifically regarding manufacturing defect claims. In a recent federal case involving pelvic mesh, Rosenberg v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 2019 WL 2596358 (E.D. Pa. 2019), the Eastern District of Pennsylvania asked the Third Circuit the question of whether Pennsylvania recognizes a strict liability claim for a manufacturing defect of a prescription medical device and the outcome is awaited. In dismissing the plaintiff’s strict liability claims, the judge opined that, “…no meaningful distinction can be drawn between prescription drugs and prescription medical devices,” and predicted this reasoning would be extended again. While the Third Circuit’s decision will settle the law in federal actions filed in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania state courts will have to decide whether to follow the Third Circuit’s decision when it is rendered.