Except for a few bad actors, companies care about their customers. They want to make a product that brings joy into the world. Unfortunately, sometimes, that endeavor to bring joy into the world back fires, and a product hurts a customer, which can become a product liability claim. But, just because someone files a claim does not mean a company necessarily has liability.
The goal of product liability lawsuits is to hold companies accountable for their dangerous products, but this is not an absolute. First, Louisiana Code, Section 3492, mandates that there is a one-year statute of limitations on lawsuits for personal injury and personal property damage. This means that if over one year has passed since the initial injury or property damage, the company may not have liability.
Second, Louisiana law limits the damages a company may face in a product liability cases under the state’s pure comparative negligence rule. This means that customers who are at least partially at fault for the accident will have their damages award reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if the customer misused the product, and as a result, a jury believed they were 80% responsible, a $100,000 award would be reduced by $80,000 to $20,000.
Third, there are strong defenses available to product liability lawsuits. For example, if the product was unforeseeably modified after it left the company’s control, that can relieve liability. If the product was misused in an unforeseeable way, that also can relieve a company of liability.
Fourth, companies can argue that they could not have had the required technical or scientific knowledge needed to know that the product was a danger to the public. Of course, a company can also refute any required element within a products liability lawsuit.
As business owners can see, when they are faced with these types of lawsuits, companies have options at trial. Often though, companies can settle prior to a lawsuit to avoid bad publicity, but figure out one’s options are best done with the help of a professional.