When you suffer injury because of a defective product, you deserve compensation. But manufacturers won’t cut you a check without a fight. That’s why you need a Kona product liability lawyer to fight your product liability claims.
To maximize your compensation, you need a personal injury lawyer who can investigate your claim, navigate the complexity of supply chains to pinpoint the responsible party, and win through negotiation or at trial.
How Do Defective Product Liability Claim Work in Kona?
Hawaii’s personal injury law covers those injured by a defective product, provided the product in question was used as intended and responsibly. For obvious reasons, manufacturers, such as automakers, cannot be held responsible if owners make drastic modifications that compromise safety.
In addition, the law shields manufacturers from liability when their products are used for unintended purposes, such as a consumer placing objects into a blender it is not designed to process. For example, the blender manufacturer may warn against placing coffee beans in the blender. The blender is designed for softer materials. Coffee beans require a grinder made specifically for that purpose.
While in many cases this mistake is likely to cause damage to the machine rather than personal injury, it’s conceivable that hard coffee beans may cause the blade to detach. If the blade then strikes the user, a serious injury could result.
Under Hawaii’s product liability laws, the manufacturer may escape liability based on the misuse of the product. The blade would have remained affixed if the blender was used correctly, so the injury occurred because of misuse rather than a product defect.
For a product liability claim to succeed, the manufacturer must have placed a defective product on the market. Hawaiian law considers products defective under a number of circumstances, such as design defects, poor manufacturing processes, and failure to provide sufficient instructions and warnings.
Regarding design defect cases, plaintiffs win if they show an alternative, safer, economic design was feasible but disregarded by the manufacturer. This type of claim may arise if the maker of airbags could have designed the product to reduce the risk of injury but chose a cheaper design that placed drivers at risk.
Cases based on poor manufacturing processes must offer proof that a mistake or intentional action during the building or assembly of the product resulted in injury. For instance, in 2006, Dell was forced to recall over 4 million laptop batteries because the battery manufacturer left tiny metal particles within the cell. These particles made the batteries prone to overheating and catching fire, causing injuries.
For a manufacturing defect case to succeed, they must establish that the product was defective when it left the manufacturer’s control and that defect caused the plaintiff’s injury. In some situations, the product fails not because of a design defect but due to an impact on the product after it left the maker’s control.
For example, an auto replacement parts manufacturer may have shipped a perfectly good brake pad to an auto shop. However, a technician damaged the pad during installation, despite the manufacturer having provided explicit instructions for handling it, causing an injury accident. In that case, the liability likely resides with the repair shop.
Manufacturers may also bear liability if they neglected to provide adequate warnings or instructions regarding its use. Looking back at the coffee beans in the blender example, a defective product case could be brought if the manufacturer neglected to advise what the blender is designed to process in its instructions for use.
In many cases, this leads to a legal gray area. How much responsibility does the manufacturer bear in terms of warning consumers against misuse? Often, resolving this question comes down to whether the manufacturer provided instructions that are clear to a reasonable person. Was the injured party’s use contrary to the manufacturer’s warnings, or is the warning sufficient to prevent a reasonable person from misusing the product in that way?
What Happens When It Is Unclear Which Entity Caused the Product Defect in Kona?
In today’s world of complex supply chains, multiple companies may be involved in bringing a defective product to market. A product may have been designed by one company, be manufactured by another, and used materials from several suppliers. When this is the case, your personal injury lawyer investigated the matter thoroughly to identify all responsible parties.
Often, the case begins with a complaint naming all entities involved in the making of the product. During the discovery process, the plaintiff’s team often finds evidence that one or more of the defendants contributed to the defect, and one defendant may bear the majority of the liability.
On the other hand, where the blame resides is less clear in some situations. For this reason, Hawaii’s product liability laws allow plaintiffs to pursue compensation under the “market-share liability” theory. According to this doctrine, when a plaintiff cannot identify the level of responsibility of each specific manufacturer, the plaintiff can sue multiple manufacturers based on their market share of the defective product.
This type of case often applies to pharmaceutical companies, where pinpointing where in the process the defect occurs is difficult. Accordingly, the company with the largest market share bears the lion’s share of the liability.
Establishing Liability: The First Hurdle
Personal injury attorneys have many tools at their disposal in finding evidence in a product liability case. Once a lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff’s legal team has specific rights and powers through the legal discovery process to compel the production of evidence. The defendants must furnish relevant evidence in their possession, and a personal injury lawyer can seek additional proof from third parties.
Discovery is the process by which lawyers build their cases. At trial, lawyers cannot spring surprises on the other side. All evidence, with a few exceptions, such as certain forms of rebuttal evidence, must be disclosed in the discovery process. As a result, the litigants have a good idea of how the case is likely to turn out, knowledge that facilitates settlement negotiations.
Here are some of the steps lawyers may take in building a defective product claim:
This involves obtaining and examining all relevant documents from the manufacturer, such as internal memos, emails, safety test results, design plans, and quality assurance checks.
For example, in a defective products case brought against Boeing, the plaintiffs obtained internal communications where employees discussed the poor design of the aircraft and their dismay that the company was placing it on the market without fixing the problems.
If needed, lawyers can compel individuals or businesses to produce documents or testify through subpoenas. While the discovery process mandates deference to produce relevant documents and evidence, lawyers may need a subpoena to collect evidence from a third party.
For example, a business’s security camera may have footage of an accident. The plaintiff’s lawyers can use a subpoena to require the business to provide a copy.
Product liability claims are often strengthened by expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are individuals with detailed knowledge of the subject matter who can analyze the evidence and form a credible opinion as to the cause of the defect.
For instance, in the case against Boeing, expert witnesses testified to what the company did wrong in designing the aircraft and how these missteps caused it to crash.
Each side has the opportunity to depose opposing witnesses. For instance, if the plaintiff has consulted an expert witness, the defense can depose that person. Likewise, the plaintiff’s lawyers can dispose of any witnesses for the defense, such as an expert witness that disagrees with the plaintiff’s expert.
Depositions involve taking sworn, out-of-court oral testimony of witnesses. A stenographic record is kept, and, provided the court agrees, lawyers can use witness statements against them at trial. Because of depositions, witnesses cannot easily change their accounts at trial. As a result, lawyers know what to expect in court.
Lawyers in product liability cases conduct extensive research into similar cases and the history of the product and manufacturer. This could include past recalls, similar lawsuits, histories of safety violations, and other factors.
Inspection and Testing of the Product
Lawyers often have independent experts inspect and test the product to gather additional evidence.
Negotiating an Advantageous Settlement in Kona
To negotiate an advantageous settlement, personal injury lawyers need a detailed understanding of their client’s injuries and the cause. For a product liability case, this involves gathering evidence of the product’s defect and how said defect injured the client. With strong proof in hand, the lawyer has strong negotiation leverage.
Personal injury lawyers need a thorough understanding of the applicable laws and legal precedents. How these apply to the case and affect the likely outcome of a trial determines the target settlement amount.
Negotiations entail a series of communications with the opposing counsel. Here, the lawyer’s experience and skills come into play. Successful advocate uses their knowledge and expertise to counter erroneous arguments presented by the opposing side.
Defense counsel usually issues a denial at first and the plaintiff’s lawyer must overcome these denials and convince the defendant(s) that their client’s claim is valid, backed by irrefutable evidence, and that the settlement demand is at least equal to what a jury will award. This posture sends the message that continuing litigation only makes the lawsuit more expensive for the defendant(s) in the end.
Winning at Trial
Though most personal injury cases settle out of court, some defendants remain obstinate despite strong evidence against them. In that case, you need a tenacious trial lawyer.
A winning trial lawyer possesses expert legal knowledge, persuasive presentation skills, and thinks quickly and strategically. To win, a trial lawyer needs to analyze complex information and use it to construct compelling arguments, articulating their client’s position and weaving compelling narratives to sway the judge and jury.
Also, a killer trial lawyer has tenacity and resilience. Trials are fluid, and they must navigate unexpected challenges with agility. Above all, they must feel a passionate commitment to their client’s cause and transfer that perception to the jury.
Hire the Attorneys of Olson & Sons in Kona
Personal injury lawyers have a suite of tools to aid them in building complex product liability cases. They build powerful cases, often utilizing extensive document review and research, expert witnesses, subpoenas, and depositions. Through strategic negotiations, they win advantageous settlements. But if a trial is necessary, a successful personal injury lawyer takes the defendant before a jury, leveraging their legal acumen, persuasion skills, and killer instinct to win.
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