PRODUCT LIABILITY

Canada and British Columbia take product safety standards very seriously. Even with extensive testing and regulatory requirements, there are still unsafe and dangerous products that manage to make their way into the market. Unsuspecting consumers often pay the price when these defective products seriously injure them or a family member.

At Preszler Law Firm, our Vancouver product liability lawyers can assist you in seeking compensation for injuries suffered due to a product manufacturer's negligence. We understand the stringent requirements of the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) and provincial laws designed to protect your family from improperly tested and harmful products. We know how to build, present, and prove a case in B.C. court should the need arise.

How do I Prove a Product Manufacturer was Negligent in B.C.?

Product liability differs from other kinds of personal injury cases because there is generally a pre-existing contractual relationship between the manufacturer or seller of the product and the customer. For example, if you buy a household appliance with a manufacturer's warranty, that constitutes a legally binding contract between you and the manufacturer. So, in addition to any claim you may have if you are injured by a defect in the appliance, you may also be entitled to relief under the contractual terms of the warranty or the implied warranty from the Sale of Goods Act.

With respect to purely tort claims, however, there are basically three types of negligence for which you can seek damages:

  • Negligent manufacture;
  • Negligent design; and
  • Failure to warn.

Regardless of the type of negligence, B.C. law puts the burden on the plaintiff to prove all of the following elements in order to prevail on a product liability claim:

  • The product was defective;
  • The defendant–i.e., the manufacturer or seller–owed the plaintiff a “duty of care” with respect to the product;
  • The defendant was negligent in failing to meet that standard of care;
  • The defendant's negligence “caused or contributed” to the defect in the product;
  • The defect caused or contributed to some injury sustained by the plaintiff; and
  • The damages to the plaintiff were “reasonably foreseeable” by the defendant.

As you can see, product liability claims are quite complex. It is not a matter of simply alleging that a product was defective. There must be a clear, logical progression from some act or omission on the part of the manufacturer or seller to a specific injury suffered by the consumer. Building this type of progression requires skill and experience in the field of product liability. It is not the type of case an individual plaintiff can usually build and successfully pursue on his or her own.

At Preszler Law Firm, we know how to define and prove a defendant's negligence. We specialize in these kinds of complex personal injury claims precisely because we know that the law can seem overwhelming. While no lawyer can guarantee a successful outcome, we can assure you that we will spare no effort when it comes to seeking justice for you and your family.

An individual product liability claim may encompass one or all of the various categories of negligence mentioned above. Here is a brief explanation of each category and how they may fit a given situation.

  • Negligent Manufacture: Canadian law requires all consumer product manufacturers to use “reasonable” production and quality control processes. In other words, a manufacturer is not legally obligated to make the product “perfect” before releasing it in the market. If the manufacturer allows a product that does not conform with industry standards or even the manufacturer's own design specifications to reach a consumer, however, that is considered negligence.
  • Negligent Design: Sometimes the problem is not how a product was manufactured, but rather how it was designed in the first place. Negligent design claims are tricky, however, because the plaintiff typically needs to prove there was some safer, alternative design the manufacturer could have used that would have prevented the injury sustained by the consumer. Even when such a safe design exists, the manufacturer may still avoid liability by showing the alternate design would have been too costly or led to other possible design issues.
  • Failure to Warn: When a manufacturer knows–or reasonably should have known–that there is a particular safety risk associated with its product, it must give an appropriate warning to the customer. This is typically accomplished through written instructions or warning labels packaged with the product. Again, the manufacturer does not necessarily have to warn consumers about all potential risks, only those that are known based on the available information.

How can a Manufacturer Defend Against a Product Liability Lawsuit?

Few B.C. product liability cases are simple and straightforward. Even when a plaintiff goes into court armed with substantial evidence of a manufacturing or design defect, or a failure to warn, the law provides a number of defences that manufacturers are eager to use. Some of the more common defences we see at Preszler Law Firm include:

  • The customer understood and voluntarily assumed the risk of using the defective product.
  • The customer used the product in a manner inconsistent with its intended and instructed uses.
  • The customer failed to properly maintain the product.
  • The customer, or a third party acting without the manufacturer's knowledge or consent, modified or repaired the product in an improper manner.
  • There was some “intervening act,” unforeseeable by the manufacturer, that actually caused the customer's injuries.
  • The customer signed a waiver, contract, or other legal document voluntarily giving up the right to sue the manufacturer.

The truth is that many product manufacturers will adopt a kitchen-sink approach and throw any defence out there that may help them to escape a potential judgment. This is why it is critical to work with a qualified Vancouver product liability lawyer from the outset of your case. The law simply contains too many traps and hazards for an injured consumer to safely navigate without assistance.

What Types of Damages can I Seek in a Product Liability Action?

As with any kind of personal injury claim, a successful plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit is entitled to compensation for the damages he or she suffered as a result of the defendant's negligence. B.C. courts normally divide these damages into two broad categories - pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses.

Pecuniary losses reflect your financial damages. For example, if you are injured by a defective product, your pecuniary losses would include the cost of your past, present, and future medical care, as well as any loss of earnings you sustained. Your non-pecuniary losses would address intangible injuries such as your pain and suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life.

Additionally, if a defective product caused damage to other property you own, those losses may be compensable in a product liability case. You generally cannot recover damages for replacing or repairing the defective product itself (although this may be separately covered by warranty or contract.) In rare cases, B.C. courts may order a defendant to pay punitive damages in connection with especially reckless or egregious misconduct.

What Will it Cost Me to Hire a B.C. Product Liability Lawyer?

Make no mistake about it: Product liability cases are not easy to win in B.C. Even when a plaintiff manages to show there was a clear and obvious defect in the product itself, the law requires further proof that said defect was the “but-for” cause of the plaintiff's injuries. Put another way, you need to show that your injury or loss would not have occurred but-for the defendant's negligence.

Prevailing in a product liability claim therefore requires a good deal of scientific and other expert testimony, not only to prove the existence of a defect but also to provide a “chain of causation” between the defect and your injury. If there are any intervening factors or persons that break this chain, it can take down your entire lawsuit

.

The Preszler Law Firm has the expertise to assist you at all stages of your product liability lawsuit, from the initial investigation into what happened to hiring the right experts and negotiating a potential settlement with the manufacturer and other defendants. In addition to pursuing traditional tort and contract claims, we can also help you with pursuing other legal remedies against a negligent manufacturer or seller under the CCPSA and the British Columbia Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

At Preszler Law Firm, we pride ourselves on providing world-class legal services to B.C. residents who have suffered due to a third party's negligent conduct. We only represent plaintiffs in product liability cases, never the manufacturers. Our commitment to victims like you means that we never charge advance fees or costs when taking on a case. We work exclusively on a contingency basis. The bottom line is we do not get paid until you do.

There is no risk and no obligation to sit down and talk with us about your case. We maintain consultation offices in Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, Victoria, and Abbotsford. So, wherever you live in B.C., Preszler Law Firm is here to help. Call us or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.