It’s unfortunate, but all too often a product reaches the market with a defect that causes someone to get hurt. When that happens, the injured person may have a claim for compensation under the law of products liability. The West Virginia products liability attorneys at Underwood Law Offices know how to get results for seriously injured clients in all types of products liability cases.
If you or a family member have been injured by a defective product, contact one of our dedicated product liability attorneys today. We represent product liability injury victims throughout West Virginia, including Huntington, Charleston, Parkersburg, Morgantown, and Wheeling. You can reach us for a free and confidential initial consultation by calling 866-523-0499, or by using our convenient online form.
Product liability deals with cases involving defective or unsafe products. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of products can be held liable for damages arising from the use of defective products. Products covered by this area of law, include food, drugs, and real estate, as well as virtually all consumer products. The user who is injured and seeks damages does not need to be the original purchaser of the product. Nor does a person seeking damages have to prove negligence in many cases. Product liability frequently is a question of strict liability: that is, if the product is defective and that defect caused injury, the injured user may sue for damages as long as the product was used as it was meant to be used and not substantially changed from its original condition.
If the injured user was using the product in a manner not intended by the manufacturer or retailer, or had altered the product so that safety features were disabled, it may not be possible to prove that injuries were caused by defects in the product. The defendant may be able to successfully claim that the injuries were caused by the acts of the plaintiff.
Questions of negligence and breach of warranty are also grounds for a claim for damages under product liability. In the case of negligence, if it can be shown that a company was negligent in testing its product adequately or in supplying directions for its use, the injured party probably has grounds for filing suit. Similarly, a manufacturer implies a warranty for fitness of use and freedom from defect when an item is sold. If the item proves to be defective, or is unfit for the purpose intended, an injured user can file a product liability case. In a case of negligence, it is important that the plaintiff be able to show that the product was defective when it left the control of the party he is suing. It is not possible to hold someone liable for a defect that occurred after that party had control over the product.
In product liability, there are various areas of defects that can occur. If a claim of strict liability is to be pursued, the injured party will need to show that the product was unreasonably dangerous for its intended use, due to a defect. There are generally three areas in which a product can be unreasonably dangerous:
The manufacturer or seller can fail to warn about dangers associated with the products use. Manufacturers and sellers are expected to give adequate warnings about possible dangers, and to provide clear and adequate instructions of use. Failure to do so can cause a useful product to become deadly. For instance, coolants used in automobiles are extremely toxic – failure to print warnings of this toxicity on the product labels could lead to an accidental poisoning and thus to a suit for damages.
The product may have a design defect. This means that the product is manufactured with a defect, even if it is assembled perfectly. An example would be a car gasoline tank that is designed with weak walls such that an impact can rupture the tank and cause the car to catch on fire, even when the tank is correctly assembled and installed.
A manufacturing defect exists when an otherwise safe product is rendered dangerous because it is assembled improperly. A car whose wheel is installed with missing or cross-threaded bolts may lose a wheel at high speed, injuring or killing the driver and passengers. If it is proved that the car was manufactured with that defect, the manufacturer will be liable.
In all cases of product liability, it is essential to the success of the case that the product be preserved and that all paperwork showing the origin of the product be made available. Receipts showing purchase, any repair records, etc., can be vital to building a successful case.
We’re Here For West Virginia Victims of Dangerous Products
It’s important to know that products liability claims can arise from many types of products, not merely the machinery, household items, and personal belongings so many of us take for granted. Other types of products that can injure people – and give rise to liability claims – include foods, chemicals, drugs and medical devices, and real estate (like defectively-constructed homes).
At Underwood Law Offices, our experience shows that in most cases West Virginians are injured by dangerous products that fall into one of two broad categories.
By their very nature, some products are simply dangerous for people to use or be exposed to. When such a product injures someone, perhaps because the product turns out to be so dangerous that it can’t be safely used at all, or because the manufacturer failed to warn about the product’s dangers so users and others could take necessary precautions, the injured person likely has a products liability claim for compensation.
Many inherently hazardous products have injured people who either worked with the product, were involved in the product’s manufacture, or were members of the public exposed to the product in their daily lives. These include:
- Agent Orange – A toxic herbicide and defoliant famous for its use by the United States military during the Vietnam War. Among U.S. personnel, many suffered heavy exposures in handling and using the chemical. Exposure to Agent Orange can lead to serious illnesses, including many cancers. Also seriously affected are many workers at Monsanto’s chemical production facility in Nitro, West Virginia, where chemicals that went into Agent Orange were made since 1949.
- Asbestos – “Asbestos” describes naturally-occurring fibrous minerals that have properties useful in many commercial applications. Asbestos can be fireproof, resistant to strong chemicals, a thermal and electric insulator, and can be woven into a fabric. The trouble is, exposure to asbestos by inhaling or swallowing the fibers, which easily become airborne when asbestos is processed and handled, can cause mesothelioma and other fatal diseases. Many thousands of factory and shipyard workers, among others, have been sickened and killed due to asbestos exposure. By some estimates, millions of people remain at risk of asbestos-related diseases due to their asbestos exposure – even over a short period of time.
- Pesticides – Pesticides are mixtures of chemicals and other substances meant to protect crops, buildings, people, and animals from pests. Such pests commonly include birds and other animals, insects, and weeds. Pesticides provide a number of benefits to humans, but they also can be highly toxic and dangerous to human health. Of particular concern is long-term exposure to pesticides among agricultural workers and those who live near farms where pesticides are applied. In addition, pesticides can make their way into drinking water, and they can persist in fruits and vegetables that people eat. Studies have associated pesticide exposure with certain cancers, Parkinson’s disease, neurological problems, and birth defects.
- Silicosis – Silicosis is an occupational lung disease that results after workers inhale crystalline silica dust. The dust causes inflammation and scarring in the lungs, seriously impairing the victim’s ability to breathe. Those most often affected include miners, foundry workers, sandblasters, stone and brick cutters, pottery workers, and people who operate industrial grinding equipment. All these occupations, and others, expose workers to airborne silica particles that can lodge in the workers’ lungs and lead to incurable lung disease. The disease is absolutely preventable, however, with the use of safety equipment and procedures to reduce workers’ exposures.
- Thimerosal/Mercury Poisoning – Thimerosal is a mercury compound first used as a preservative in vaccines beginning in the 1930s. While it is no longer routinely used in the United States – the FDA recommended against its use in infant vaccines in 1999 – past use of the substance has been linked to illnesses and diseases associated with mercury exposure; mercury is one of the most toxic elements to human health. Among other injuries, many claim that thimerosal exposure through vaccination of infants has resulted in neurological and developmental disabilities in children, including autism.
- Tobacco Use – The tobacco industry has been the subject of products liability litigation for decades. Smokers who developed lung cancer and other diseases have successfully challenged the tobacco and cigarette companies’ marketing and sales of this highly addictive product, which the companies knew was potentially lethal to its users. The cases have resulted in class actions by smokers and their families, and settlements with almost all of the states, whose health systems bear much of the public health costs of tobacco use. Tobacco litigation continues to develop even today, as tobacco companies market new products, such as “light” cigarettes, which create the false impression that they are healthier than regular cigarettes.
- Welding Rod Injury – In addition to the risks of burns and eye injuries, welders also risk serious injury when they are exposed to the toxic fumes released by welding rods during the welding process. Welding rods contain toxic metals that burn in the intense heat required for welding. The metals and other substances in welding rod fumes can result in serious injuries, long-term illnesses, and death if they are inhaled by a welder or others in the vicinity. Avoiding injury requires the use of proper safety and ventilation equipment.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Underwood Law Offices, Inc. at (304) 522-0508 or toll free 866-523-0499 or submit an online questionnaire. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.