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A product manufacturer can be sued when a defect causes harm. Such defects can include manufacturing defects, design defects and a failure to warn or properly instruct on the product’s safe use.

At John M. O'Brien & Associates, we represent individuals and families in the greater Sacramento and Elk Grove Area who are injured by defective products. We believe that manufacturing companies have a responsibility to consumers and when something goes wrong they should be held accountable. As product liability lawyers, we believe it is our duty to hold these companies accountable and to help injured persons and their families recover the maximum amount of compensation possible.

We are not afraid to challenge large corporations and their insurance companies. In fact, we believe it is our duty to do so. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by a defective or unsafe product, we can help you. Whether you were in an auto accident caused by a defective tire or faulty brakes, or if you suffered injuries from a medical device or medication, our attorneys and staff will evaluate every piece of evidence and will not rest until you and your family receive the compensation you deserve.

Types of Product Liability Cases

Any commercial product can be defective, mislabeled, or unreasonably dangerous. The most common product liability cases are motor vehicle defects that result in traffic accidents, including the following:

  • Unintended acceleration is a design or manufacturing flaw present in several popular cars, most notably Toyotas.
  • Engine fires or tire blowouts are signs of a manufacturing defect that can lead to serious accidents.
  • Malfunctioning safety devices like seatbelts or airbags can worsen the outcome of a crash and can be subject to a product liability claim.
  • Medical devices are unfortunately also among product types often reported as defective.
  • Several types of hip and knee implants have been recently recalled as numerous failure reports were filed.
  • Heart monitors and heart valves are sensitive devices, designed to protect patients from heart failure.

Many pharmaceutical drugs have serious side effects, some leading to fatal outcomes, such as:

  • Actos has been connected to severe side effects including bladder cancer.
  • Pain relievers and diet pills despite their popularity can also cause severe side effects.
  • Antidepressants have serious side effects and may lead to suicide.

The defective product claims usually fall into three categories:

  1. Defective design. In these cases, an entire line of products is inherently dangerous. For instance: a particular model of vehicle that has a tendency to flip over while turning a corner or a type of sunglasses that fail to protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays
  2. Defective manufacture. Defectively manufactured products are flawed because of fabrication errors, for example a moped missing its brake pads or a swing set has a cracked chain
  3. Failure to provide proper instructions or warnings about the adequate use of the product. Failure-to-warn claims involve products that are dangerous in ways that are not obvious to the customers. They require special precautions when they’re used. For example: a medicine that does not include on its label a warning that it may cause dangerous side effects if taken together with another drug.

Who can be Held Liable in a Product Manufacturing Defect?

There are several entities that might be held responsible in a product liability case including all individuals and companies in the chain of distribution. Defendants in product liability lawsuits are most often:

  • The designer of the product
  • The manufacturer of the product and/or any components
  • The company who assembled the product
  • The company who labeled the product
  • The first distributor of the product
  • The reseller of the product
  • Retail stores that sold the product

There are also some other details you need to be aware of:

  • The manufacturer may be a multinational company or an individual working in a garage
  • If the defective product is a component of a larger product, the defective product liability claim should be against both manufacturers (the defective part’s manufacturer and the whole product’s manufacturer)
  • The charges can include any other additional parties related to manufacturing, such as design, marketing, outside consultants, contractors, quality-control engineers, design consultants, technical experts responsible to write the instructions for the injury-causing product
  • You can bring a defective product claim even if you were injured by a defective product that someone else was using.

If the defendant is a corporation, you should know that corporations can change over time due to mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations or re-naming. It’s important to know that each of the successor companies "inherits" liability, so in your claim, you should also name the successor companies as defendants.

What Damages can be Recovered?

Product liability is a strict liability claim, meaning the degree of care taken by the defendant is irrelevant. Victims injured by a dangerous or defective product might be eligible for monetary compensation covering both economic and non-economic losses, such as:

  • Present and future medical costs
  • Lost wages during recovery
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish

These damages are intended to reestablish the victim's financial estate prior to the injury. In order to receive compensation for these damages, plaintiffs should follow these recommendations:

  • Keep the product, its packaging and any documents included
  • Prevent the product from undergoing any repairs or modifications
  • Gather all information about the product including manufacturer, model name and number and serial number as well as date and place of purchase
  • Contact an attorney before the statute of limitation expires

In a non-contract case, the plaintiff may recover amounts for any damages related to the accident that caused the injury, but in a breach-of-warranty claim the damages can be much more limited.

Damages must be foreseeable in order to be recoverable. Foreseeable damages include financial losses, such as those for medical bills, repairs to damaged property and lost wages.

In rare cases, punitive damages apply. They are intended to punish the defendant's conduct. They are not allowed in breach-of-contract (warranty) claims. The amount of punitive damages is based on the wealth of the defendant and the reprehensibility of the conduct. Whereas compensatory damages are not taxable to the plaintiff, punitive damages that he or she receives are subject to federal income tax.

Product Liability Law in California

A person injured by a product may base the recovery of damages on one (or more) of these grounds:

  • Negligence
  • Breach of warranty
  • Strict tort liability.

Components of a California strict liability action:

  • Product was used in intended manner (includes changes, alterations, reasonably foreseeable misuse, abuse, etc.)
  • Product was in a defective state when it left defendant's possession
  • The defective product was the cause of plaintiff's injuries or damages.

California allows liability to be assessed against a supplier or a manufacturer when a defective product harms innocent bystanders. This policy of courts increase bystanders protection since they, unlike the users and sellers/manufacturers, they have no chance to inspect for defects.

Statute Of Limitations in California. Generally, a two-year deadline prescribed by California Code of Civil Procedure applies to personal injury actions in products liability.

Documentation Needed to File a Product Liability Claim

To begin a lawsuit, a plaintiff typically files three forms:

  • A civil case cover sheet
  • A summons
  • A complaint.

The Summons and Civil Case Cover Sheet are mandatory Judicial Council forms, and have to be used in all cases.

Each lawsuit must state facts that would allow the court to award a judgment to the plaintiff under at least one theory recognized by the court. Each of the theories is named a "cause of action."

It is possible for the Complaint to have more than one cause of action. If it’s drafted on a Judicial Council form, the Judicial Council has already created several forms for common causes of action that can be attached.

The forms are available here:

To start the legal process, you have to file the lawsuit with the court.

After filling and signing the forms/pleadings, make two copies of your documents, and assemble everything as it follows:

  • Original Civil Case Cover Sheet and two copies
  • Original Summons and two copies
  • Original Complaint containing all causes of action and attachments, and two additional copies.

The court keeps the original documents, and will stamp the copies with a case number and an endorsement, then return the copies to you, along with several other documents the court provides.

Experience You can Trust

At John M. O'Brien & Associates, we have handled a wide variety of complex injury cases involving defective products. For example, we represented a man who was given a cryotherapy unit following routine ankle surgery. He was told that the unit would reduce pain and swelling and would accelerate the healing process. Our client was instructed to leave it on 24 hours a day for 5 days straight; his wife was instructed to add ice to the machine every 8 hours. Our client and his wife simply did what they were instructed to do. As a result, he suffered severe injuries similar to frostbite and had two of his toes amputated. After the surgery, he acquired a resistant infection known as MRSA and his leg was amputated below the knee. What started out as a routine surgery ended up as a two year battle for our client who will have disfiguring and debilitating injuries for the rest of his life. Our attorneys took on the case and challenged the product manufacturer and the retailer. The case settled for $4.5 million.

Handling All Types of Product Liability

The law office of John M. O'Brien & Associates has a proven record of success in a wide range of product liability claims.  Our attorneys recently resolved a case against a major automobile manufacturer on behalf of the heirs of a 52 year old woman who was killed in a broadside collision when her side airbags failed to deploy. Mr. O'Brien challenged the auto manufacturer, contending that if the airbags weren't defective and deployed as designed and warranted, the woman would still be alive. The case was resolved before a trial for a confidential sum. 

Our attorneys and staff are equipped with the knowledge, the skills and the resources to take on the most complicated product liability cases involving:

Product Liability Q&A

Q: What is product liability? See Answer


Q: What is a failure to warn claim? See Answer


Q: Can I sue a drug manufacturing company for side effects? See Answer


Q: Can I recover damages if I used the product in a way that is intended by the manufacturer? See Answer


Q: How long does it take for a product liability claim? See Answer

Contact John M. O'Brien & Associates

At John M. O’Brien & Associates we have extensive experience in handling different types of product liability claims and we will take your case to a jury if negotiations fail. We aggressively fight large manufacturing companies on your behalf so you can receive the full compensation you deserve. Don’t delay in contacting our firm as soon as possible in order to receive maximum compensation.

Call John O'Brien 800.722.4176
or Ask John O'Brien a question
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    Result: $4,500,000    Read more