What is Product Liability?
According to New Hampshire law, Section 507-D:1, a product liability action is defined as the following:
[A]ny action brought for or on account of personal injury, death or property damage or other damage caused by or resulting from the development, manufacture, construction, design, formula, preparation, assembly, testing, warning, instructing, advertising, marketing, certifying, packaging, or labeling of any product. The term includes all such actions, regardless of the legal theory relied upon, whether strict liability in tort, negligence, breach of warranty, breach of or failure to discharge a duty to warn or instruct, misrepresentation, concealment, nondisclosure or any other theory whatsoever.
Basically, this means that a person can hold a company responsible for any injury, death or property damage that their product caused. A person who suffers because of a defective product can seek compensation for medical bills, wrongful death, pain and suffering and more.
Product Liability Law in NH
A person who experiences damages because of a faulty product has the right to seek compensation from the party responsible for the error. According to New Hampshire law Section 507-D:2, there is a statute of limitations involved in product liability cases. The law states that a claim can no longer be filed:
- 3 years or more after the injury reasonably should have been discovered
- 12 years after the product was sold or given away
- 12 years after a lessor or licensee has had the product in their possession
These rules do not apply to cases where the product manufacturer used fraud or deception to cover up the dangers the product posed. Under Section 507-D:3, a person who is harmed by a product can only hold the creator liable for damage caused by the product in its original form. If the product was modified or altered in any way and those altercations were ruled as the cause of the injury, the victim does not have a case. For example, a space heater that causes burns because the protective cage has been removed would not likely be grounds for a product liability action unless it can be proven that the company was aware that the cage could easily be removed.
New Hampshire Product Liability
Product liability laws can be very complicated and sometimes confusing. For example, there are several ways that a product can be linked back to negligent behavior from the manufacture. As stated in New Hampshire law 507-D:1, a product liability action can occur in the form of any of the following:
There are many examples of how negligence can be involved in the creation of a product that would lead to injury by the user. If a product is not properly safety tested, for example, this is an obvious case of negligence. Negligence can also occur in the form of poor quality control, the use of subpar material, bad planning and more. Any action that was taken during the creation, development or distribution of the product that made it inherently dangerous could be shown as negligence.
Intentional Misrepresentation or Fraud
This can be one of the most difficult types of product liability actions to prove. It occurs when a company, manufacturer, distributor, etc. is aware of the dangers that their product poses but chooses to sell it anyway and works to mislead the public or cover up the fact that the product is dangerous. Whereas ignoring the danger the product is capable of would be an example of negligence, attempting to cover it up would be considered fraud.
Breach of Express or Implied Warranty
Both express and implied warranties guarantee to the user that a product is capable of certain tasks. A product that cannot perform its purpose and, therefore, causes injury can be the subject of a product liability action. For example, a life vest that does not float would normally not be a danger other than the fact that its implied warranty is that it is used to keep a person from drowning. If it does not float, it could cause death to the user. An item that does not float is not inherently dangerous, but because of the implied warranty, the life vest becomes a danger.
Strict Tort Liability
In many product liability cases it may be difficult for the victim to prove why the company was responsible for their injuries. For example, a person who is burned by a space heater will not know who was responsible for the dangerous defect, all they know if that they used it as directed and were still hurt. For this reason strict tort liability exists. With this type of claim, a victim only has to prove that there was a problem with the product that led directly to their injuries or property damage.