The “Substantial Contributor” Standard in Florida Product Liability Claims

Individuals who suffer injuries because of a defective or unsafe product may hold the product designer, manufacturer, or distributor liable for their damages. Florida product liability laws cover many industries and products, including pharmaceuticals, nutrition supplements, food products, automotive parts and products, housewares, recreational equipment, infant products, and construction materials and tools. Florida permits product liability plaintiffs to recover for their injuries under three types of claims; negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty.

Breach of warranty claims arises when a plaintiff argues that the designer or manufacturer breached its express or implied warranty claims regarding their product. Strict liability claims do not require a plaintiff to prove fault, but only that the defective product caused their injuries. Negligence claims, on the other hand, require the plaintiff to establish that they suffered damages because the defendant negligently designed, manufactured, or marketed their products. To recover for their injuries, plaintiffs must be able to prove causation-in-fact and foreseeability. When there are multiple defendants or causes for the plaintiff’s injuries, plaintiffs must also be able to prove that the defendant’s negligence was a “substantial contributing” factor to their injuries.

For example, a Florida appeals court recently issued its opinion in a case stemming from injuries a man suffered after exposure to benzene products during his lengthy career as a carpet and flooring installer. The man filed lawsuits against multiple defendants, arguing that he developed bone marrow and blood diseases because of long term exposure to benzene products. The defendants successfully moved for summary judgment, contending that the man failed to establish which product caused his illness. The man responded that the defendants were relying on the incorrect “but for” standard instead of the appropriate “substantial contributor” standard.

Under Florida law, “substantial contribution” is not an independent test for causation; rather, it acts to supplement the traditional “but for” causation standard. Defendants moving for summary judgment must disprove the plaintiff’s causation theory. When there are multiple defendants, each one must prove that they did not cause or substantially contribute to the plaintiff’s condition. In this case, each defendant provided expert testimony that their products only contributed a small fraction of the man’s total exposure to the product, which was far below the threshold that would have resulted in the man’s health conditions. Ultimately, the court agreed with the lower court’s ruling, and found in favor of the defendants.

Have You Been Injured by a Defective Product?

If you or someone you know has suffered serious injuries because of a defective product or device, you should contact the Florida product liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank. P.A. Florida product liability lawsuits tend to be complicated and require a comprehensive and detailed understanding of complex statutes and regulations. Our team of attorneys has years of experience successfully handling these types of cases. We possess the extensive legal knowledge and litigation skills to advocate on behalf of Florida injury victims. We have recovered substantial compensation on behalf of our clients, including payments for medical expenses, ongoing medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We are continuing to represent our clients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic diligently. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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