Products liability claims in Georgia

Products liability applies to the liability of manufactures, processors or sellers for injuries to a buyer or other third-party. Georgia has a general products liability statute and statutes applicable to liability for injuries from particular products.

Product liability claims can be brought under a theory of strict liability or negligence. Whether brought under a theory of strict liability of negligence, there must be (1) a defective product and (2) proximate cause. With respect to the defective product, a plaintiff doesn't have to specify the exact nature of defect, just that the product did not operate as it was supposed to. Proximate cause requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence that the product was the cause of the injury.

Negligence theory in products liability cases

Negligence is the "failure to observe or satisfy, for the protection of the interest of another person, that degree of care, precaution, and vigilance which the circumstance justly demand whereby such other person suffers injury." 15A Ga. Jur. Personal Injury and Torts § XX. The duty is one of reasonable care. Essential elements in a products liability case brought under the theory of negligence are: (1) defendant owed plaintiff a duty of care; (2) the defendant breached this duty or violated the standard of care; and (3) the breach was the cause of the injury.

Strict liability theory in products liability cases

A manufacturer is strictly liable in tort "when an article it places [on] the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that causes injury to a human being." 15A Ga. Jur. Personal Injury and Torts § 39:14. The purpose of this theory is to place the burden of cost of injuries on the manufacture who put the product on the market rather than consumers who were helpless to protect themselves.

Under the strict liability theory, the plaintiff doesn't have to show negligence but only that when it was sold the product was not "merchantable and reasonably suited to the use intended and that such condition is the proximate cause of its injury." The defective product must be new when sold. New means not damaged or used significantly. An inherently dangerous product is not defective if it is safely and properly prepared, manufactured, packaged and accompanied with adequate warnings and instruction. For example, highly flammable chemicals, vaccines, industrial looms, wood-shaping machines, motorcycles, firearms and power saws are inherently dangerous but not defective if properly manufactured and accompanied with adequate warnings and instructions.

Damages in products liability cases

The two basic types of damages in products liability cases are compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages, also called actual damages, are the amount of proven injury or loss or the amount to repay actual losses. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to actual damages to punish the defendant and to deter others from similar behavior.

Speak to a personal injury lawyer

If you were injured because of a defective product, speak to a personal injury attorney experienced in products liability cases as soon as possible to preserve your rights.