Products Liability

Products liability law is a specific area of tort law which primarily involves cases in which a manufacturing or design defect is claimed to have been present in a commercial product, allegedly causing some personal injury or property damage. Products liability cases are most commonly based upon the theory of strict liability in tort, a theory under which there is no requirement to prove that the manufacturer or seller of the product was negligent or “at fault” but only that there was a manufacturing or design defect that caused injury to person or property. Because of the divergence of the theory of strict liability from that of the theory of negligence or “fault”, products liability cases present unique challenges with respect to their handling and presentation.

One of the challenges presented by products liability cases is that the product involved will often be technological in nature, requiring a technical understanding of the design, manufacturing and operational characteristics of the particular product. Most commonly, expert witnesses will be utilized by both parties to the lawsuit to give opinions regarding those characteristics of the product.

Another type of claim commonly presented in a products liability case is a claim that some warranty, either express or implied, has been breached by the manufacturer of the product. Contrary to a claim based upon strict liability in tort, a breach of warranty claim is fundamentally a claim based upon contract law. As a result, many products liability cases involve substantial interplay between the general legal theories of tort law and contract law. In such cases, issues are often raised with regard to the statute of limitations, the types of damages being claimed, and the intention of the parties and condition of the product at the time it was sold. The proliferation of consumer products throughout the United States during the 20th Century has led to this very interesting and specialized area of legal precedent to address the relatively modern policy interests arising from these developments.

Two of Craig & Craig, LLC’s Members hold engineering degrees and the Firm has regularly represented manufacturers of products in these types of cases.

R. Sean Hocking, Member with the Mattoon office of Craig & Craig, LLC, trained as an engineer in the field of aeronautical and astronautical engineering prior to his entry into the practice of law. Mr. Hocking practices primarily in the area of Products Liability law, where he defends manufacturers of commercial and other products, including agricultural equipment and heavy machinery. Mr. Hocking is experienced with communicating technical and technological issues to lay persons, and dissecting the technical opinions of opposing experts during discovery and deposition of those experts. Mr. Hocking has been successful in a number of Products Liability cases in securing dismissals and summary judgment rulings, disposing of cases prior to the trial phase based on certain defenses unique to this area of law.