Products liability refers to the culpability of any party across the chain of manufacture of a product with respect to any damage that is caused as a direct result of the use of that product. This includes not only the manufacturer of any individual component or part of a product but also the assembling manufacturer that assembles the parts to put together the product that is sold to the consumer as well as the wholesaler. It can also include the retail store owner where the products are sold to the consumer.

In any product liability lawsuit a defective product is the product that allegedly has some inherent defects that harm a consumer who uses the product. The product need not be purchased by the person who is harmed and it could be a defective product that was loaned or gifted.

While, in most instances, a product typically corresponds to an actual tangible object, over the years the definition has been stretched in order to accommodate intangible items such as gas, natural items such as pets as well as real estate such as condominiums and single family homes and even writings such as navigational charts, to name but a few examples.

There are three criteria that product liability claims can be based on; negligence, strict liability and finally breach of warranty of fitness which is dependent on the jurisdiction from which the claim originates. Since there is no federal products liability law the United States Department of Commerce has taken the initiative to draft a Model Uniform Products Liability Act that can be used voluntarily by any state. Each state is free to enact their own product liability statutes and many states have put in place stringent and comprehensive products liability statutes.

Regardless of the individual statutes, in principal any product liability case is considered a strict liability case, meaning, that it is ultimately irrelevant how careful or well-meaning a defendant is. If the victim can demonstrate that the product is defective it doesn’t matter whether the supplier or manufacturer at any or all points in the chain of manufacture of said product exercised great care. As long as the defect exists and is harmful, they will be held liable regardless.

Source: Legal Information Institute, “Product Liability,” Accessed May 18, 2015