Product Liability Tops Personal Injury Claims & Payouts

Remember the story about the woman who suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin after she dropped a scalding cup of McDonald’s coffee in her lap?  The victim claimed the coffee was defective since it was too hot for consumption. She obtained a $2.86 million settlement (later reduced to $640,000).

That’s just one of the more famous cases involving personal injury from defective products.  According to statistics, among all areas of personal injury law, product liability lawsuits generate the second highest verdict and settlement amounts.

Taking it Personal

Personal injury is a legal term for an injury to the body (or even mind and emotions), as opposed to an injury to property.

The term “personal injury” is most commonly used to refer to a type of lawsuit alleging that the plaintiff’s injury has been caused by the negligence of some other person or entity.  Personal injury law is often also referred to as tort law and cases are handled in civil, rather than criminal, court. A tort is a wrongful act that results in an injury for which the injured party is entitled to compensation.

Personal injury law covers many different situations and provides the opportunity for an injured person to sue another party at fault for those injuries. A person or business may face both civil and criminal charges for the same action, but the key differences include a lesser burden of proof in civil cases and the fact that civil penalties usually take the form of money damages paid to the injured party.

Liability Lawsuits over Defective Products

Product liability refers to a manufacturer or seller being held liable for placing a defective product into the hands of a consumer.   Every year in the U.S., defective or dangerous products are the cause of thousands of injuries.

“Product liability law,” the legal rules concerning who is determined to be responsible for defective or dangerous products, is different from ordinary injury law, and this set of rules sometimes makes it easier for an injured person to recover damages.

Well-Known Product Liability Settlements

When a defective product causes a burn injury, brain injury, spinal cord injury or wrongful death, the victim or his or her family can pursue compensation for damages. There are many types of cases that fall under the category of product liability, including cases involving dangerous prescription drugs and motor vehicle crashworthiness and design.

Like the Spilled McDonald’s Coffee Accident of 1994, the following verdicts and settlements achieved in past product liability cases have become famous:

  • $32 Million Settlement in Prescription Drug Defect (April 2006) – The widow of a 71-year-old man was awarded compensation after her husband’s death due to use of the painkiller Vioxx®.  The victim had been taking the drug for a month when he died of a heart attack in 2001. In 2004, Merck & Co., the drug’s manufacturer, pulled Vioxx® from the market when research showed that the medication increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. The widow was awarded $32 million in damages, which was later cut to about $7.75 million to conform to state limits on damages.
  • $38 Million Settlement in Bridge Collapse (May 2008) – Victims of a 2007 bridge collapse in Minnesota obtained a $38 million dollar settlement for their losses. The collapse killed 13 and injured 145.  The National Transportation Safety Board focused its investigation on design flaws that may have caused the collapse.

Responsibility for a product defect that causes injury lies with all sellers of the product who are in the distribution chain. Potentially liable parties include: the product  manufacturer, manufacturers of component parts, the wholesaler and the retail store that sold the product to the consumer.

A defense often raised in product liability cases is that the plaintiff has not sufficiently identified the supplier of the product that allegedly caused the injury.  A plaintiff must be able to connect the product with the party(ies) responsible for manufacturing or supplying it.

Another defense a manufacturer might raise is that the plaintiff substantially altered the product after it left the manufacturer’s control, and this alteration caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Legal Help for a Defective Product Injury

Product liability actions are often quite complex, and establishing legal fault often requires the assistance and testimony of experts. There are several theories under which a plaintiff might bring a claim, and several defenses that might defeat such a claim.  Additionally, every state has its own laws and specific statutes that will affect a product liability action. Accordingly, it is important to consult an experienced attorney if you or a loved one suffers injury caused by a potentially defective product.

At Hornberger & Brewer, we are California personal injury lawyers with a difference. We welcome the opportunity to try cases, because we know we can do well for our clients.  In major personal injury litigation, we are adept at proving that another party negligently or purposely caused the accident resulting in harm.  Depending on the case, we pursue monetary damages for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost income
  • Medical bills
  • Permanent injury and disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment, love and affection
  • Wrongful death

Effective Case Strategies

Winning catastrophic personal injury cases in which serious damage occurs requires a firm grasp of medical and scientific issues and years of experience in the areas of law, medicine and engineering.

At Hornberger & Brewer, our years of trial experience have gained us the experience and ability to blend medical and technical knowledge into a persuasive legal strategy that often obtains a great client result.

Verdicts & Settlements

  • $33 Million verdict Wrongful death action against O.J. Simpson
  • $19 Million verdict Malicious prosecution action against Chinese importers
  • $6.8 Million verdict Business fraud & conversion case representing a Russian company
  • $6.5 Million settlement Breach of contract action against multinational corporation resulting in a $6,500,000.00 settlement
  • $5.3 Million verdict Business fraud and breach of contract case
  • $4.7 Million verdict Wrongful death / Fraudulent transfer case representing both American and Ukrainian residents
  • $4.7 Million settlement Liver Transplant case for wrongful death of Saudi Arabian citizen
  • $3.1 Million binding arbitration Personal injury's head on collision
  • $2.0 Million settlement Fraudulent transfer case
  • $2.0 Million settlement Independent Sales Organization for alleged breach of contract claim
  • $1.75 Million settlement Shareholder in connection with corporation shareholder dispute
  • $1.5 Million settlement Fraud and breach of contract case
  • $1.5 Million Judgment Breach of contract and defamation action resulting in default judgment collected
  • $1.3 Million verdict Employment and breach of contract case
  • $1.2 Million verdict Misappropriation of trade secrets and indemnity claim
  • $1.0 Million settlement Employment termination and breach of contract case

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