Product Liability

The lawyers at MacArthur, MacArthur & Associates, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience in limiting liability of our clients in product liability litigation. We defend against claims by developing solid defenses available under Michigan law when allegations of injuries from defective products arise.

Michigan Law

Michigan courts have long held that manufacturers are not insurers who guarantee in every instance and under all circumstances that no injury will result from the use of their products. Yet every year, businesses face claims of injury or death as a result of flawed and unsafe products.

In Michigan, an injured person must show that the product was defective to recover on a product liability claim. Plaintiffs commonly attempt to establish the existence of a defect by alleging negligent design, negligent manufacture, negligent failure to warn, breach of an express or implied warranty, or misrepresentation or fraud about the product. These are not easy hurdles to overcome.

Negligent Design

In 1996, the Michigan Product Liability Act was amended to require proof both that a product was unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the manufacturer’s control and that a practical and technically feasible alternative design was available at the time of production, in order to establish a negligent design claim. This amendment has made it significantly more difficult for plaintiff’s to establish negligent design, provided that the defenses are properly developed during the discovery process.

Negligent Manufacture

A plaintiff commonly alleges that their injuries were the result of a negligently manufactured product. In that type of claim, the plaintiff must show that the manufacturer failed to do what a reasonable manufacturer would have done in the production of the product. Where there are differences between the subject product and the product in its intended condition, it is imperative for your legal counsel to investigate other causes for the changes in the product, including failure to maintain, modification of the product by the user, or misuse by the user.

Negligent Failure to Warn

The 1996 revisions to the Product Liability Act significantly limit a defendant’s duty to warn of risks that should be obvious to a reasonably prudent product user or that are matters of common knowledge to persons in the same or similar position as the plaintiff. The amendments also provide that manufacturers and sellers are not liable for the failure to warn or to instruct unless the plaintiff can prove that the manufacturer knew or should have known of the risk of harm based on the scientific, technical, or medical information reasonably available when the product left its control.

In addition, manufacturers and sellers are not liable for failure to provide a warning to a sophisticated user, unless a warning is required by state or federal statute or regulation. This amendment has made it significantly more difficult for plaintiff’s to establish negligent failure to warn, if the defenses are properly documented during discovery.

Breach of Implied or Express Warranty

To establish a cause of action for breach of implied warranty, a plaintiff must prove that the product was not fit for its intended and reasonably foreseeable purposes, so that the product was defective. While plaintiffs technically do not have to prove negligence under this theory, the existence of a defective condition is measured by a negligence standard, which imposes the same difficulties for the plaintiff as the negligent design and negligent manufacture causes of action.

An express warranty is a representation or statement made by the manufacturer or seller in writing, orally, or by another means that the product has certain characteristics or meets certain standards. However, not every statement that is made about a product is part of an express warranty. For example, a statement of opinion that cannot reasonably be believed or relied upon has been deemed by the courts to be sales talk and not a representation of an express warranty.

Misrepresentation and Fraud

To establish misrepresentation or fraud, a plaintiff must prove that: 1) the defendant made a material representation, 2) the representation was false, 3)the defendant knew it was false or made it recklessly, 4) the defendant intended that the plaintiff would act on it, 5) the plaintiff acted in reliance on it, and 6) the plaintiff suffered an injury as the result of the misrepresentation or fraud.

Alleging misrepresentation and fraud can be tempting for a plaintiff, because the recoverable damages may be greatly expanded and even include exemplary damages. However, the evidentiary bar is high for proving this basis for product liability. Our skillful product liability lawyers know how to mount an aggressive defense to thwart this type of claim.

Customized Discovery

With all the potential theories of liability, each with its own peculiarities, defending against a product liability claim requires an attorney with skill and experience in these types of claims. Our lawyers have more than 30 years of experience in defending product liability cases. Since there are no boilerplate models for discovery in product liability cases, our approach includes developing an efficient, effective, and customized plan for discovery that results in the lowest possible exposure for the client.

Traditional Defenses and Limitation of Damages

In addition to the traditional defenses to a plaintiff’s claim that the product was the proximate cause of their injuries, a product liability case involves issues of comparative negligence, assumption of the risk, federal preemption, and the sophisticated-user defense. In addition, even if the plaintiff is able to establish a prima facie products liability case, damages for noneconomic loss in a product liability actions are under Michigan law,as established in MCL 600.2946a(1).

We’re the Right Choice for You

Our product liability lawyers at MacArthur, MacArthur & Associates vigorously defend against claims by leveraging the available defenses and numerous hurdles for a plaintiff. You can count on us to conduct a thorough analysis to ensure your exposure is properly limited or eliminated. From our offices in Metro-Detroit, Lansing, and Gaylord, we provide legal services to businesses throughout Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. We invite you to contact us to discuss your product liability defense needs.