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Florida Personal Injury

How to Prove That a Faulty Product Was the Cause of Your Injury

We all remember the 1992 lawsuit against McDonald’s, in which 79-year-old Stella Liebeck sued the fast food giant after she spilled hot coffee on herself and suffered third degree burns. She was awarded nearly $3 million in punitive damages for the injuries she suffered and the medical expenses she accrued.

While many people scoffed at the ridiculousness of the suit – (She sued for spilling coffee on herself) – McDonald’s coffee was too hot—40 to 50 degrees too hot, in fact. At between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit, McDonald’s coffee resulted in over 700 personal injury claims prior to Ms. Liebeck’s, some of which included complaints of third degree burns. McDonald’s settled on some, but not all, of the suits.

Ms. Liebeck offered to settle with the fast food chain for $20,000, but the company never offered her more than $800. She took them to trial, and walked away with far more than she could have ever anticipated.

Strict Liability, Negligence, and Breach of Warranty

Stella Liebeck won her case because it was revealed that not only did the McDonald’s operations manual direct employees to serve coffee at a temperature known to cause third degree burns, but also, they knew about the risk of serious burns from their scalding hot coffee for more than 10 years and yet did nothing to change their coffee-making protocol. Furthermore, McDonald’s admitted at trial that their coffee was “not fit for consumption.” Upon these revelations, it was a no brainer for the jury to find McDonald’s guilty on the grounds of strict liability and negligence.

Our Miami personal injury lawyers focus on three theories when determining fault in a product liability case:

  • Strict Liability: When suing on the grounds of strict liability, the consumer must prove that their injuries were sustained as a result of carelessness of the manufacturer or seller, OR that the following three conditions existed:
    • The product had an unreasonably dangerous defect;
    • The defect caused an injury when using the product as a way it was intended to be used; and
    • The product had not been substantially changed from the condition in which it was originally sold.
  • Negligence: If claiming that your injuries were sustained as a result of negligence, you must show that the company failed to ensure the safety of others in the deliverance of the product that caused the injury.
  • Breach of Warranty: Product liability law is concerned with the breach of three types of warranties:
    • Express Warranty: An express warranty exists when claims regarding the product are spoken during negotiations or written into the contract. An express warranty is created when the manufacturer says something along the lines of, “This product is guaranteed to be free from defect for 10 years from the date of purchase.”
    • Implied Warranty of Merchantability: An implied warranty of merchantability requires that the product and its container meet certain standards of quality, and that the product be fit for the ordinary purposes for which the goods are sold.
    • Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose: Implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is similar to an implied warranty of merchantability, except that it requires the seller to know or have reason to know of a particular purpose for which the goods are required and in which the buyer is relying on the seller to furnish or select suitable goods. When a seller makes a recommendation for a product or service, they are thereby warranting that the product will be good for the seller’s particular needs.

In order to for a breach of warranty to be valid, the consumer must promptly inform the seller of the breach as a condition to his or her liability, show that they relied upon the warranty when using their product, and show that the seller was able to limit or renounce entirely the implied warranties during the sale process. Furthermore, the buyer must prove that both parties in the intended suit were privy to the contract.

Proving Liability

While each state has different requirements for proving product liability, most states ask that you prove the following elements:

  • That you suffered some sort of injury or loss as a result of the product’s defect;
  • That the product was actually defective either in the manufacturing or in the design, or that proper warning was not given regarding potential known hazards posed by the product;
  • That the defect or the fact that the product was defective led to your injury or loss; and
  • That you were using the product as it was intended to be used.

Consult a Miami Product Liability Lawyer

Every year, thousands of people are injured or killed as a result of defective products, yet more than half of those cases go unreported. At The Pendas Law Firm, our Miami product liability lawyers help individuals receive just compensation and damages for injuries sustained from defective products, or as a result of inadequate warning labels. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a defective product, do not wait, and contact our Miami personal injury law firm at 1-888-LPENDAS or online to schedule a private consultation today. We also serve clients in the Orlando, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale & Tampa areas.

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