Most of us are familiar with the stories of individuals who are injured due to defective products, items that prove shoddy in their design or their manufacture and thus yield dangerous consequences; according to the law firm Johnson Becker, however, this hardly means that all product liability cases are slam dunks. Sometimes well-intentioned lawyers mount product liability cases that result in justice being served on behalf of their clients. In many other cases, though, these suits go nowhere.
But what is the difference between a successful product liability case and one that falls flat? According to the attorneys at Johnson Becker, the answer often lies in preparation. To win the cases, the legal team needs to be fully prepared with documentation and evidence showing that the product in question really is faulty and that the consequences of that faultiness really are grim.
Of course, the product manufacturer is unlikely to provide any real help with the investigation. As such, it falls to the lawyers to come up with the documents and evidence they need. The team from Johnson Becker shares some examples and tips in the paragraphs that follow.
The first priority—the thing on which the cases often hinges—is preservation of the product itself. In many cases, the client will still have possession of the product in question. In these cases, obtaining and preserving the product is essential. According to Johnson Becker, there may be cases in which preserving the actual product is hard; in these cases, coordinating an inspection of the product by a credible expert may suffice.
When the actual product that caused the injury is unavailable, the next step is to seek an exemplar product. This essentially means purchasing the exact same product, a match of the one that caused the injury. When purchasing an exemplar product, however, it is vital to do so as quickly as possible. A failure to purchase the product immediately may result in the product line being changed and the exact product needed being altered or discontinued.
The attorneys at Johnson Becker recommend that lawyers take every precaution to confirm the exact product involved in the incident. This means carefully documenting the serial number and the model number of the product. Clients may be able to furnish this information; if not, the expert who inspects the product surely can. Taking some photographs and displaying these numbers is usually advisable.
Proving that the client purchased the product in question is important. Ideally, he or she will still have an invoice or receipt. In these instances, preserving this documentation is vital.
And of course, if the client purchased the product in question, there is a chance that he or she has retained the operator, owner, or user manual, as supplied by the product manufacturer. This is critical documentation to prepare. If the client did not retain these documents, it is sometimes possible to do an online search, or visit the manufacturer’s website, and download a copy of the manual. If all else fails, it is usually possible to order a manual directly from the manufacturer.
In addition to manuals, many products also come with warnings. Warning labels and warning instructions are very much relevant to product liability cases. Attorneys are advised to seek out these warnings, or at the very least to procure photographs of them.
Manufacturer marketing materials can also prove handy in a court of law, Johnson Becker states. Brochures and other marketing documents can be procured from the manufacturer website or—in some cases—from the retail location where the product was purchased. Again, if all else fails, online searches can also yield this information.
Johnson Becker offers further examples of documentation that helps win product liability cases. Certainly, recall information will come in handy, as applicable. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains a database of recall notices, and can be a useful tool for determining whether a product has been recalled because of safety hazards posed to consumers.
Many products come with warranties. Even warranty information can prove useful in a product liability case, according to the Johnson Becker team. Warranty information is usually available on the website of the manufacturer or retailer.
There is one source of documentation that may come as a bit of a surprise, and that’s YouTube. More and more manufacturers are using YouTube to display videos of their products being assembled or used. These “video instruction manuals” or product demos are good to consult, as they reveal by the manufacturer how a product is intended to be installed and used. Downloading YouTube videos and preserving them against takedowns from the company is recommended.
For that matter, there are plenty of other online destinations where information on products can be found. Certainly, social media should be consulted. Companies that use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest to promote their products may have plenty of photographs and videos that the attorney can document. The same holds true for manufacturer and retailer websites.
The list goes on from there, Johnson Becker maintains. Certainly, industry and trade magazines can be useful for obtaining articles and advertisements about certain products. These articles and ads can provide some useful perspectives on the issues you’re addressing in your case.
Independent product testing is the final component to consider. There are many third-party labs where researchers can be hired to thoroughly study a product and testify to its level of faultiness. Obtaining expert opinions from these researchers can, in many examples, lead to winning cases.
The bottom line for attorneys is that product liability cases are won not necessarily by the strength of the argument, but rather by the volume of the documentation. When sufficient evidence is produced, revealing the product in question to be a potential danger, that can go a long way toward seeing justice done.
The attorneys at Johnson Becker specialize in cases involving product liability, including dangerous drug cases.