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The importance of guarding against product liability claims

Although product warnings may seem unnecessary at times, Maryland manufacturers must consider the potential for misuse and safety problems that could lead to serious liability claims. Product safety is taken seriously in the United States, evidenced by issues such as asbestos removal projects, major product recalls for safety gear such as child car seats, and other instances of products being removed from the market because of adverse health reports or effects.

A manufacturer is legally responsible for any damages occurring because of its defective products. Areas that could result in liability claims include defects at the design, manufacturing, warning or instruction level. Although one might reason that defects are restricted to problems with these areas, some court cases have resulted in decisions that affirm the responsibility of the product manufacturer or designer even when warning labels have been ignored. Similarly, cases have noted liability issues for situations in which a safer design is possible.

In protecting one's business from product liability litigation, it is helpful to note that warning labels are not enough and will not necessarily protect manufacturers from liability if a product's design is defective. Careful notes should be kept of design-related activities and conversations, especially with regard to any safety issues. Liability must be a focus throughout the process of designing a product, and the assistance of a lawyer may be important for further evaluating such issues.

Because a company's documentation of its safety analysis can be helpful in a court case, it is wise to record and maintain such records to ensure that an appropriate defense can be presented if a liability claim later arises. A lawyer may be helpful in reviewing issues throughout the process of designing and manufacturing a product. Additionally, legal support may be helpful as warning labels and other safety cautions are developed.

Source: FindLaw, "Protecting Your Business from Product Liability Claims", December 27, 2014

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