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What Constitutes a Defective Product Claim in Louisiana: An Explorative Guide

Posted in Our Blog on November 15, 2023

A woman in Louisiana has initiated legal action against Philips over its CPAP machine, claiming it caused her severe injuries. The case is part of a larger set of lawsuits centralized in Pennsylvania for pre-trial activities. The woman alleges that the Philips Dreamstation device, which she used daily for sleep apnea treatment, led to her developing lung cancer. She asserts that the device caused cellular and DNA damage in her lungs, resulting in her illness. She is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers have an obligation to offer safe, reliable products to consumers. When a product falls short of these expectations and causes harm, Louisiana law provides a framework for victims to seek compensation. Under the umbrella of personal injury law, product liability cases arise from defects in design, manufacturing, or labeling of goods. Unlike other states, Louisiana often leans on the concept of strict liability, which means a victim might not need to prove negligence to win a case. However, specific criteria must be met for a successful claim.

Key Elements for a Successful Defective Product Claim

In Louisiana, establishing a defective product claim involves meeting several key criteria. First on the list is proving a product’s defectiveness, which could pertain to its design, manufacturing process, or inadequate warnings. Secondly, demonstrating a direct link between the product’s defect and incurred injuries is vital for a successful case. Another important element is the product’s condition at the time of injury. It must be in substantially the same condition as when initially purchased or received. Any modifications or alterations to the product could compromise the integrity of a claim.

Strict liability often plays a role in Louisiana’s product liability cases. Under strict liability, proving negligence on the part of manufacturers or suppliers becomes less important than showing the product was inherently defective and caused harm. However, comparative fault can influence the outcome, reducing the award based on the claimant’s percentage of fault.

Finally, adhering to the statute of limitations is a must. In Louisiana, defective product claims generally must be filed within one year from the date the injury or damage occurred.

Categories of Product Defects: Design, Manufacturing, and Marketing

In product liability, defects are generally classified into three main categories: design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects. Each carries its own set of challenges for establishing a successful claim. Design defects are inherent flaws existing before the product is even manufactured. These flaws make the product inherently dangerous, irrespective of how meticulously it is made. For example, a car model with a propensity for flipping over during sharp turns would fall under a design defect.

Manufacturing defects occur during the assembly or production stage. These are unintended mistakes making a product unsafe for use. A batch of tires with a weak seam makes them susceptible to blowouts is an example of a manufacturing defect. Marketing defects, also known as labeling or informational defects, occur when a product lacks adequate instructions or warnings, rendering it unsafe. An over-the-counter medication lacking appropriate dosage instructions could be considered to have a marketing defect.

Role of Strict Liability in Defective Product Cases

In defective product cases, the concept of strict liability often plays an important role, especially in Louisiana. Unlike negligence, which requires proof a party failed to exercise reasonable care, strict liability focuses solely on the product’s defect and its role in causing injury. In such instances, demonstrating the manufacturer or supplier acted carelessly is not required to establish a claim.

Strict liability offers advantages to claimants. Primarily, it simplifies the process by removing the need to prove negligence, making it easier to focus on the product’s defectiveness and its direct link to the injuries sustained. However, not all defective product cases in Louisiana automatically fall under strict liability. Certain factors, such as the product’s condition at the time of the incident and its general adherence to community safety standards, may affect how the law is applied.

In some instances, comparative fault might come into play, potentially reducing the amount of compensation awarded. However, it doesn’t negate the principle of strict liability.

Proving Negligence in a Louisiana Product Liability Case

While strict liability often simplifies defective product cases in Louisiana, there are instances where proving negligence remains relevant. Negligence comes into play when the claimant needs to establish the manufacturer or distributor failed in their duty to provide a safe product. In such cases, four primary elements must be proven:

  • It must be shown the defendant had a duty of care towards consumers. Manufacturers are generally expected to create products to meet certain safety standards.
  • A breach of duty must be established. This means demonstrating the manufacturer, knowingly or unknowingly, failed to uphold safety standards, resulting in a defective product.
  • Causation between the breach and the injury needs to be proven. This involves showing a direct link between the defective product and the harm suffered by the claimant.
  • Actual damages must be demonstrated. This could be in the form of medical bills, lost wages, or other forms of quantifiable loss attributable to the defective product.

Comparative Fault in Louisiana: How it Impacts Awards

In Louisiana, the principle of comparative fault often comes into play in defective product cases. Unlike some jurisdictions that employ a “contributory negligence” model, which could bar recovery if a plaintiff is even slightly at fault, Louisiana allows for a more nuanced approach. Under comparative fault, a claimant’s compensation may be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault, but it doesn’t necessarily bar recovery.

For instance, if a person is found to be 20% at fault for their injuries, any award granted would be reduced by the same percentage. So, a $100,000 award would be reduced to $80,000.

Comparative fault applies in various situations. Perhaps a consumer misused the product in a way not intended but not explicitly warned against. In such a case, a court may find both the manufacturer and the consumer share responsibility for the resultant harm.

Statute of Limitations: Timelines for Filing a Claim

Product Liability Law

Time is of the essence when it comes to filing a defective product claim in Louisiana. A statute of limitations exists, setting forth strict deadlines within which legal action must commence. Generally, claims related to defective products must be filed within one year from the date the injury or damage is discovered or should have been discovered. Missing this deadline often results in the court dismissing the case, regardless of its merits.

The one-year timeline can have exceptions. In some cases involving latent defects or delayed injuries, the clock may start ticking from the moment the injury becomes apparent or is diagnosed.

If you are dealing with a defective product claim, contact us or call (504) 500-5000 today for a free consultation.