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The Basics of Product Liability

You shouldn’t have to worry that the products you buy in the store or on the internet are going to end up harming you. There are supposed to be systems in place to ensure the safety of the products we buy and the medications we take. The phrase “buyer beware” refers to the quality of the products and our ultimate happiness with our purchase, not the potential for harm.

But there are some products that don’t live up to this requirement for safety. Defective products can have negative effects on many people. This often leads to the company recalling the defective product. A recall serves two purposes — it saves the public from further harm while also protecting the company from product liability lawsuits.

However, a defective product recall does not automatically designate the company as liable for the harm the product has called. Let’s look a little deeper into product liability.


Let’s first define product liability: This is the area of law that is used to hold businesses responsible when their products cause harm to someone. This could include manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, or retailers.

Consumers are meant to be able to assume their safety will be protected if they use a product properly. But if a product harms a person despite being used according to the provided directions, the business is able to be held accountable for the damage the product has caused.

Tennessee requires the plaintiff to prove the product was either defective or unreasonably dangerous when it was brought to market.

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Defective Products

A defective product is one that either doesn’t work as initially intended or was improperly designed. Your personal injury lawyer will need to prove an aspect of the product was unsafe from the time it was produced and distributed.

There are three types of defects that can be used to prove a product was unsafe:

  • Design Defect: A flaw in the initial design made the product dangerous. This can also apply to the packaging. For example, perhaps the product is structurally unsound, or a medication doesn’t come in a child-safe container.
  • Manufacturing Defect: A flaw in the construction of the product made the product dangerous. For example, perhaps a dangerous material was used.
  • Improper Warnings or Instructions: Products should include adequate warnings as to their safety concerns. Potentially harmful products should also include clear instructions explaining how to safely use the product.

A successful product liability case requires the product to be in the same condition as when it was purchased.

Unreasonably Dangerous

Dangerous products exist. This is not an invitation to a product liability lawsuit. However, consumers are meant to have available information that warns them of potential dangers.

Your personal injury lawyer will need to prove that the product was more dangerous than a reasonable person could have expected. This does not necessarily mean that the company was aware of the potential for danger. It could mean that had the company been aware of the danger, they wouldn’t have brought the product to market in the first place.

Strict Liability vs Negligence

While most personal injury claims revolve around the idea of proving negligence, most product liability claims in Tennessee are often determined based around strict liability.

Proving negligence requires showing intentionality or negligent conduct. Product liability claims, however, are only interested in the result. Strict liability holds the company accountable based on the harmful effects of their products while remaining unconcerned about if it was done on purpose.

And because you aren’t trying to prove negligence, your personal injury attorney doesn’t need to speak to the defendant’s intent. Instead, you will need to prove that you did not misuse or alter the product in any way.


A product liability lawsuit is filed in pursuit of damages. This is the monetary award received by the plaintiff at the conclusion of the lawsuit. There are four aspects that factor into the final settlement.

  • Compensatory damages for resulting medical bills, property damage, or lost wages that came as a result of the product
  • Loss of consortium, or negative effects on familial relationships
  • Pain and suffering from the injury
  • Punitive damages can be awarded if the conduct of the defendant is particularly egregious

Call a Personal Injury Attorney

Have you been harmed by a product through no fault of your own? Contact Bart Durham Injury Law in the areas of Nashville, TN and Bowling Green, KY. Product liability cases are subject to statutes of limitations so it’s imperative you file your case as soon as possible.

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