Products Liability

All around us, everyday products can fail, by design, manufacturing defect, or improper maintenance, resulting in severe injury or even death.

  • A crockpot electrocutes a student in his dorm room, and he dies.
  • An elderly woman is crushed by her automatic garage door.
  • A zipper malfunctions on a survival suit and a young father dies of hypothermia.
  • Brakes fail and a four-car collision injures many.
  • A man’s arm and part of his chest is ripped off by a swage press.
  • An executive is severely burned over most of his body when his luxury car spontaneously catches fire.
  • A continuous motion machine snaps a woman’s leg as she performs physical therapy.
  • A man’s hand is crushed while working on an unsafe assembly line.

These are just examples of some of the cases that have been won for clients of the Boesch Law Group’s professional team of products liability attorneys, located in Los Angeles, CA.

There are various theories of liability in products liability cases, and a complaint may include only one or a combination of theories. There are design defect cases, where the product that caused the injury was designed in such a way that caused the product to be unsafe. There are manufacturing defect cases, where the product was designed safely, but something went wrong with the product during the manufacturing process. There are failure to warn cases, where the product would have been safe if it had been accompanied by sufficient warnings, but was rendered unsafe because it was not. And often there are related claims or defenses that the product failed because of improper maintenance or handling.

A product is considered defective if it is more dangerous than a reasonable user of the product would expect it to be under reasonably foreseeable circumstances. In other words, if a person uses a product in an unusual and unsafe manner, the product is not considered defective. However, if the person is using the product in the normal manner for which the product is intended, and the product causes injury because of some inherent fault in the product itself, then the product may be considered defective.


In 1963, the California Supreme Court made an important legal ruling that applies to products liability cases. In Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963), 59 Cal.2d 57, the Court recognized the tort of strict liability. Although in nearly all other cases involving personal injuries, the injured plaintiff must prove that the person who harmed him or her did so negligently or intentionally, this is not true with strict liability. If you have been injured by a defective product, you can recover even without proof that the manufacturer of the product (or the retailer who sold you the product) was negligent. If the manufacturer placed the product on the market and knew that it would not first be inspected for defects, and the product has a defect that causes harm, the manufacturer will be held strictly liable. “The purpose of such liability is to insure that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by the manufacturers that put such products on the market rather than by the injured persons who are powerless to protect themselves.” Id. at 63.

A year after Yuma was decided, strict liability was extended to retailers who sold the defective products (whether the retailer was negligent in doing so or not) since retailers are an “integral part of the overall producing and marketing enterprise,” and they too should bear the cost of injuries from defective products. Vandermark v. Ford Motor Co. (1964), 61 Cal.2d 256, 262. Regardless of a defendant’s position in the chain of distribution, “the basis for his liability remains that he has marketed or distributed a defective product” (Daly v. General Motors Corp. (1978), 20 Cal.3d 725, 739), and that product caused the plaintiff’s injury. O’Neil v. Crane Co. (2012) 53 Cal. 4th 335, 349.

For strict liability to apply in a design defect products liability case, the plaintiff ususally presents evidence that there was a cost-effective alternative design that would have prevented the risk of injury. If the plaintiff can show this, strict liability typically is applied to hold the liable, even if it was not negligent.

For strict liability in a manufacturing defect case, the plaintiff need only show that the product purchased was more dangerous than similar products manufactured or sold by the defendant. If the plaintiff proves that the product had a manufacturing defect, it is not necessary to prove how the defect arose or whether or not the defendant was negligent in the manner it manufactured the product, in order for the manufacturer to be found liable.

Although products liability cases can be challenging cases, since product manufacturers often contest whether their products are defective and unreasonably dangerous, the law of strict liability has evened the playing field somewhat between powerful commercial interests and injured consumers.


An alternative to strict liability is the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, which can be especially helpful in highly technical products liability cases, such as automotive defects. Res ipsa loquitur does not apply to strict liability claims, but it does apply to negligence claims. For the doctrine to apply, the accident must have been caused by an agent or instrumentality under the exclusive control of the defendant, must have been the type of accident that ordinarily does not happen unless someone is negligent, and must not have been due to any voluntary act of the plaintiff. If all of those circumstances are met, the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that its product did not cause the accident. In doing so, the defendant is required, based upon its superior knowledge of the product, to explain how the accident occurred. The defendant may not merely offer an explanation of how the injury might have occurred without negligence, and is not permitted to simply argue about other possible causes of the accident.

California courts have ruled that the res ipsa loquitur doctrine may be applied in a variety of cases, including automobile defects, train defects, airplane defects, and other highly technical and complicated products liability cases. In such cases, the defendant’s control does not have to be absolute, and may be found even if there is superficial control by the plaintiff. For example, an automobile that is purchased from and maintained by a defendant automotive company, that plaintiff operates but does not himself repair or modify, may be “controlled” by the defendant such that res ipsa loquitur applies if the automobile turns out to have a defective component.

If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury as a result of a product that you believe has caused harm, it is important to retain an experienced products liability attorney who can determine the best legal strategy to maximize your recovery. The Boesch Law Group has years of experience in litigating products liability cases and can help guide you to the best possible outcome. Call today to speak with one of our experienced Los Angeles products liability attorneys, and schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options.

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