Contributory negligence can apply to product liability cases in the sense that this doctrine applies to all personal injury cases. So, if a plaintiff is found negligent in their use of the product, they may not be able to collect compensation for their damages.
That being said, product liability laws in Maryland are strict and generally place more liability on the product manufacturer, designer, and marketer to keep consumers safe from products sold in the public market. While product manufacturers can use contributory negligence as a defense, it may not be considered a strong argument by the courts because the consumer was sold a product presumed to be safe.
Strict Liability in Maryland Holds Manufacturers Accountable for Their Products
Strict liability, also known as product liability, is a tort rule that holds companies that design, manufacture, and sell products accountable for defects in their products. Under this law, defects can be categorized in three ways:
- Defects from the design stage: Before the product was made, there was already an error in its design that should have been discovered through product testing and fixed afterward.
- Defects from the manufacturing stage: Once a product’s design is confirmed and patented, it then goes to the manufacturing stage to be mass-produced. Sometimes this stage leads to errors, which can be caused by incorrect materials, machinery malfunctions, physical errors in the product’s composition, or chemical errors that make the product toxic.
- Defects from the marketing stage: The way a product is marketed can also have errors, such as in its labeling or instruction. If a product fails to warn about potential side-effects, ingredients it has, or potential safety hazards, this may be interpreted as a labeling or marketing error.
The FDA Must Approve Medications
Certain products must go through an approval process before they can legally be sold in the public market. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve pharmaceutical drugs before they can be administered as medical treatment.
As part of the FDA-approval process, pharmaceutical companies must:
- Report side effects of the drug
- List the ingredients used to make the product, including dosages
- Report potential safety risks if the drug is mixed with other drugs, substances, or food
- Report potential risks to people with certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, or pregnancy
- Report the maximum dosage in case of poisoning
However, some products, such as dietary supplements, do not have to be approved by the FDA, per the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. These products can be dangerous because they do not go through the same rigorous testing as pharmaceutical drugs do. Yet, if the supplement contained toxic ingredients or did not warn users about the potential side effects, injured parties may be able to hold the dietary supplement manufacturer or brand accountable.
Product Manufacturers Still Have Some Defense Arguments
According to an article in the University of Baltimore Law Review, product manufacturers still have some viable defenses against consumers, though they can be hard to prove. These arguments are:
- Assumption of risk: The plaintiff knew about the product’s risks and still chose to use it. Alternatively, the plaintiff might have known about the risk of using the product incorrectly and still chose to do so.
- Misuse of the product: The plaintiff did not use the product for its intended purpose or did not use it in the way it was marketed.
- Alteration of the product: The plaintiff altered the product in some way, which introduced safety hazards that were not originally there.
- Comparative fault: Both parties are deemed at fault for the accident, which in Maryland, would absolve manufacturers of having to pay compensation to the plaintiff due to contributory negligence.
A Product Liability Lawyer at the Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow Can Manage Your Case
Though contributory negligence does not always apply to product liability cases, it should still be anticipated as a potential defense argument from the product manufacturer, designer, or marketer. If you would like legal guidance from a product liability lawyer to understand what kind of challenges you might face in your defective product case, look to the Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow. We have handled various personal injury cases in Maryland, including cases where clients sustained injuries from defective products and pharmaceutical drugs.
When you work with our personal injury law firm, we listen to your concerns and work hard to have your story heard. Each client we take on in the Edgewood, Maryland, area gets 24-7 text communication access with our law firm, which allows our clients to update us on information they have about their case, potential evidence, and new personal challenges. If necessary, we can refer you to a medical care provider we trust to look over your injuries.
Call the Law Offices of Adam M. Smallow at (410) 877-6021 for a free consultation.