Can I Win a Product Defect Suit If I Misused or Modified the Product?

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When people are injured by a dangerous product – whether it be a home appliance, a power tool, an automobile, or even a toy or recreational device such as a jetski – a common defense that the manufacturers will raise in an attempt to avoid liability is to argue that the user of the product either “misused” or modified the product. The manufacturer or seller might try to argue misuse or modification from the moment you call a product hotline or write in a complaint and repeat that defense when you are inside a courtroom bringing a multi-million dollar product liability suit. But is it really the case that your alleged misuse or modification of the product means you cannot recover for your injuries? It is possible in some cases, but it depends on the foreseeability of your alleged misuse or modification, and even then you may be eligible for a substantial verdict or settlement.  

Misuse and a Product Liability Suit

Misuse is when a user of a product uses that product for a different use than was intended by the manufacturer. To use a ludicrous example, if you use electric hedge trimmers to give yourself a haircut and sustain head injuries, that would be a misuse of the hedge trimmers and you will probably have a tough time pursuing your product liability suit. But most cases in which misuse is raised as a defense involve more reasonable situations, such as where a person stands on a chair meant for sitting or a kitchen appliance for a non-kitchen purpose.

In such cases, California courts will look at whether the plaintiff’s misuse of the product was unforeseeable and unreasonable. Taking the hedge trimmer as hair clipper example, that might be a situation where a judge and/or jury could find the misuse both unforeseeable and unreasonable. In addition, the manufacturer will have to show that the plaintiff’s misuse was the sole cause of the injury for it to be a valid defense.

Modification and a Product Liability Suit

Modification is a bit different than misuse in that, with modification, the plaintiff has made a modification to the product which the defendant now alleges is the sole cause of the plaintiff’s injury. A common situation in which modification arises in a product liability suit is where a plaintiff removed a safety mechanism on the device, such as removing a guard from a lawn mower’s blade or making a repair to a power tool that disengages a safety lock.

As with misuse, a plaintiff’s modification will only act as a defense to a defendant’s liability if it is shown that the modification was unforeseeable from the perspective of the manufacturer. If the manufacturer, for example, knew that a particular safety mechanism was both a significant impediment to the product’s use and easy for a user to remove, a court may rule the modification was foreseeable and thus not a bar to the plaintiff winning recovery in a suit.

Questions regarding whether a product misuse or modification were indeed foreseeable – and whether they were the sole cause of a plaintiff’s injuries – are often highly complex and require research into product liability lawsuits in a state’s courts, thus you should speak with an experienced product liability attorney to determine whether your potential misuse or modification does indeed affect your right to recovery in a product liability suit.

Contact Mccune Wright Arevalo, Llp Today Regarding Your Product Liability Claim

Whether you are seeking to bring an individual product liability suit for your injuries or are interested in joining a class of similarly injured plaintiffs, the product liability legal team at McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP is waiting to hear from you.  When you contact McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, we will begin the process of investigating your situation immediately in order to work towards maximum recovery in your case as quickly as possible. You owe no legal fee unless and until you recover. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney to discuss your matter.   

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