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When Safety Tools Don’t Work As Advertised, What Next?

When Safety Tools Don’t Work As Advertised, What Next?

We all rely on the products we use to be safe. That’s especially true of equipment designed to prevent accidents. When safety tools break, serious injury or even death can result. Nevada products liability law provides recourse to those who are injured by defective safety tools.

The elements of a strict products liability claim in Nevada

As a matter of policy, Nevada wants to protect consumers in the state from being harmed by products that are badly made, poorly designed, or inadequately labeled. One way the state protects consumers is by allowing them to bring lawsuits under the theory of strict products liability. Liability for a defective product can rest with a broad range of potential defendants, from designers and manufacturers to packagers and sellers. NRS 695E.090. Generally speaking, a plaintiff in a strict products liability case must prove five things:

  1. The defendant falls within the scope of persons responsible for the product (as a manufacturer, seller, etc.).
  2. The product had a defect that made it unreasonably dangerous.
  3. The defect was present at the time it left the defendant’s possession.
  4. The plaintiff was using the product in a way that was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant.
  5. The defect caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Fyssakis v. Kinght Equipment Corp., 108 Nev. 2012, 2014 (1992); Nev. J.I. 7.02.

The kinds of “defect” in Nevada strict products liability law

Nevada recognizes three types of defects that can support a strict products liability claim:

  • Manufacturing defects. These are problems with a product introduced at the time it was made. A manufacturing defect can be inferred from an unexpected, dangerous malfunction, such as a ladder suddenly collapsing under someone (see Krause Inc. v. Little, 117 Nev. 929, 938-39 (2001)), or a seatbelt that fails in a car accident.
  • Design defects. A manufacturer can be liable for injuries caused by a use or foreseeable misuse of a product that was not accounted for in the product’s design. Robinson v. G.G.C., Inc., 107 Nev. 135, 139 (1991). A mountain climber’s carabiner can be put to all sorts of uses, but can be dangerous if the manufacturer elects to make it from a material that’s too soft to hold a foreseeable load, like more than one person at a time.
  • Failure to warn. In a failure-to-warn case, the product defect is simply that it lacked adequate labeling or other warnings to alert consumers to the risk of injury. Rivera v. Philip Morris, 125 Nev. 185, 191 (2009). A child’s car seat is covered with warnings about its proper installation because a failure to include such instructions would inevitably lead to injuries from improperly installed seats.

Defenses to strict products liability

Once a plaintiff in a strict products liability case has established each of the elements, the defendant has relatively few defenses. Perhaps the most important feature of strict liability is that the defendant cannot avoid liability by showing that the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the injuries. Because strict liability is not a theory of negligence, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff isn’t relevant. Young’s Mach. Co. v. Long, 100 Nev. 692, 694 (1984).

Although contributory negligence is not an option, a defense can still be founded on the plaintiff’s assumption of risk or misuse of the product. Id. For example, a plaintiff who rides a motorcycle while wearing a bicycle helmet arguably has assumed the risk of head trauma.

Filing a products liability lawsuit in Nevada

A serious injury from the use of a product can be enormously disruptive. Working with a caring, attentive personal injury lawyer can relieve some of the stress of working toward compensation for medical bills and lost wages. The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have served the Las Vegas community for decades. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.