Accidents happen! It’s one of the oldest platitudes in the books, often accompanied by a rueful smile and half-hearted shrug in the face of hapless error or unexpected circumstances. And with recent studies reporting that 22.4% of Australian class actions in the past 20 years have been made up of product liability claims, it is clear that however clichéd, accidents DO indeed happen, and are often the result of faulty products. If you or a loved one have suffered from a product-related injury or illness, it is important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and explore your possible claim options, because very tight time limits apply.
What Must Be Proven?
Under Australian law, a claimant must demonstrate three key issues in order to bring a successful products liability claim:
- Injury: That there has been an actual harm suffered.
- Breach of Duty: That there was a duty of care owed to the injured party and that duty was breached.
- Causation: And that the harm suffered was caused by that breach of duty.
Three Legal Basis’ for a Products Liability Action:
When bringing a cause of action based in products liability, you will have to decide upon which basis you want to argue your claim. There are three common areas in which product liability claims are based, including the negligence theory of tort law, breach of contract, or a breach of Australian Consumer Law (ACL) under the federal statute Competition and Consumer Act of 2010. Though not the only legal theories to base a products liability claim, they are the most common and most successful.
- Tort Law: The fault-based negligence theory of tort law relies on the understanding that manufacturers and sellers of goods owe a duty of care to consumers. This duty of care presumes that the purchasers and users of the goods can rely upon the safety of the goods, and are reasonably protected from the foreseeable risks of injury when appropriately using the product.
If and when a product causes injury or illness due to error of construction, faulty mechanics, or defective design, the injured consumer will have a negligence claim against the manufacturer.
- Causation Requirements: Under tort law, there are generally two requirements to demonstrate causation: (1) the negligence was the factual causation of the injury…that is, that the harm would not have happened but for the negligence of the manufacturer, & (2) that the scope of liability included the injury that was caused…meaning that the harm could be reasonably foreseen as a result of negligence.
- Breach of Contract: If a buyer enters into a contract with a seller, and the product contracted for caused injury or illness due to defect, the buyer may be able to seek relief against the seller under the theory of contract law. Less popular than the other two theories of relief, the remedies for this cause of action are often limited by the language of the contract itself. Often, there will be a distribution of liability for any defect outlined in the express and/or implied terms of the contract.
- Breach of Australian Consumer Law: A theory of strict liability, a breach of the statutory duty of the ACL will hold manufacturers directly liable to plaintiffs for both personal injury and property damages that are the result of a defective product. Under the ACL, a product will be deemed ‘defective’ when ‘their safety is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect.’
- Causation: Under ACL, causation may be demonstrated by either showing that the plaintiff has suffered a loss or damage due to a safety defect or by showing that the manufacturer failed to comply with a consumer guarantee and the plaintiff suffered injury as a result.
Products liability claims often involve a variety of different legal concepts including (but not limited to) contract law, statutory law, business law, personal injury, and insurance law. Because of this broad intersection of legal topics, these cases can become very complex and, without the experienced guidance of a lawyer, may drag on forever and become costly and frustrating. Reach out to today to discuss your case with a trained products liability lawyer whose expertise will help you represent your best interests and receive proper compensation for your suffering