Florida Product Liability Design Defect Cases

When someone is injured due to a dangerous product, manufactures, retailers, and any other person or company in the supply chain can generally be held liable through a Florida product liability lawsuit. There are several theories under which an injury victim can bring a product liability lawsuit, including defective design claims, manufacturing defect claims, and failure-to-warn claims.

Design defect claims arise when a product’s design itself is dangerous. Thus, no matter how carefully the product is manufactured, it cannot be made safe. These claims can be proven by showing that the product failed to satisfy consumer expectations of a safe product or by showing that the risks presented by the product outweigh its benefits.

As noted above, a Florida defective design claim can generally be brought against any actor in the supply chain. This includes manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, as well as any other party that helps make the product available to the public. In a recent case, a state appellate court was asked to determine if a manufacturer could be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries when the plaintiff rented the vehicle from a rental agency.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a man was killed while he was operating a rented Bobcat light-construction vehicle. Evidently, while the man was operating the vehicle a tree branch entered the cabin, striking and fatally injuring him. The man had obtained the vehicle from a rental agency.

The vehicle came as a base model, and the rental agency had the ability to personalize the vehicle at purchase by adding on any number of the hundreds of available add-ons. One of the add-ons was a door kit that, according to the accident victim’s family, would have prevented his death. The man’s family filed a product liability lawsuit against the rental agency as well as the manufacturer. This case involved the plaintiffs’ claim against the manufacturer.

The manufacturer argued that it could not be held liable under the theory that the door kit was available for purchase, but the rental agency chose not to purchase that specific add-on. The court reasoned that, while a manufacturer is generally liable for a defective product, a manufacturer is not liable if they opt not to include certain optional safety equipment if,

  • the buyer is knowledgeable regarding the product, its use, and the availability of the optional safety add-on;
  • there are normal and safe uses for the product without the optional safety equipment; and
  • the buyer is in the position to weigh the costs and benefits of adding the optional safety equipment.

The court explained that when these elements are met, “the buyer, not the manufacturer, is in the superior position to make the risk-utility assessment, and a well-considered decision by the buyer to dispense with the optional safety equipment will excuse the manufacturer from liability.” In this case, the court held that the fact that the manufacturer sold the vehicle to a rental company, knowing that the company would then rent the vehicle to individuals, did not affect this analysis. Thus, the court determined that the manufacturer was not subject to liability. The court noted that the plaintiffs were not wholly without recourse, because they were able to pursue a claim against the rental company.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while using a dangerous product, contact the dedicated Florida product liability attorneys at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we help Florida injury victims and their families obtain compensation for the injuries they have sustained. We represent clients in Florida premises liability claims, product liability cases, as well as motor vehicle accidents. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

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