The basic premise of any personal injury suit is that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and breached it. When the case involves a product injuring someone, many questions can arise as to the manufacturer's responsibility.
Generally, manufacturers must put out products that are reasonably safe for consumers to use. Depending on the specific product, this can mean several very different things.
One way a product can become unsafe is through a design or manufacturing defect. For example, defective brakes or engine parts can make operating a car very dangerous. These faults are defects because no manufacturer would - or should - set out to purposely put unsafe car parts on the market.
Products can be dangerous even without defects
Other types of products may present dangers even with proper design and manufacturing. Power tools, lighters and common kitchen appliances are just a few of the many items that can inflict serious injuries. The law does not demand that these items be completely safe, because a manufacturer could not do that without also making it impossible to use the product as intended. No one would want to purchase a circular saw that could not cut anything.
Proper warnings and other precautions
However, in such cases, state and federal laws can require manufacturers to take into account predictable ways in which consumers might use the item unsafely and provide safeguards, often in the shape of conspicuous, clear warnings against foreseeable dangers. This requirement is why, for example, toys containing small pieces typically feature a warning for choking hazards and an instruction to keep the toy away from children under the age of three. Packaging can also play a role in preventing injuries.
Manufacturer can face liability even in cases of misuse
Sometimes a consumer may misuse an item in a way the instructions or the warnings on the packaging do not cover. In such a case, courts may look at whether this misuse was foreseeable. If it was, the manufacturer may have failed in its duty to guard against foreseeable harm.