A fire broke out in 2008 within the Denham Springs, Louisiana, home of Thomas and Janice Campbell that laid devastation to the house and left the couple looking for answers. The fire investigator determined the fire’s cause was a defective range in the Campbell’s kitchen. The investigator determined the burners were off and the fire broke out when the control panel experienced a short. The Campbell’s had an expert assess the damage as well and received the same conclusion. Because of this assessment, the Campbell’s brought a lawsuit against manufacturer of the range, General Electric, alleging product defect had led to the destruction of their home. GE countered in court, moving for summary judgment against the use of the Campbell’s expert witness as well as moving for summary judgment against the use of a construction/composition claim.
If you have been a victim of an injury from a defective product, you should know that there are three different ways that you can prove the product is defective. These ways of proving fault attempt to encompass the process that a product undergoes and includes a variety of manners in which faulty conduct on the part of the delivery chain led to the disaster. By expanding the manner in which fault may be determined, the law not only gives more option to those injured by a product but also keeps a victim from suing anyone who came into contact with the good in hopes of compensation.
First, a product may have a manufacturing defect. A manufacturing defect occurs when a product becomes unreasonably dangerous by an error in the manufacturing process or the materials used in its creation, assembly, or construction. Therefore, if your electric range caused a fire because the materials used to create the product were below standard, this would be a “manufacturing defect.” In Louisiana, these defects are called “construction or composition” defects.
Second, a product may be defective due to poor design. This type of defect is known as a design defect. Unlike a manufacturing defect where a single product is defective, a design defect involves an error in a whole line of products. A product may found to have a design defect under the “Consumer Expectation Test.” This test requires that the product has failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner.
Lastly, a product may have a marketing or warning defect. A manufacturer may be liable for failing to provide adequate warnings of the dangers associated with the product or how to avoid injury.
Louisiana Products Liability Act Protects Victims
The Louisiana Products Liability Act, codified in the Louisiana Revised Statute Section 2800.51 et seq. Under the act, a victim may establish a case against a manufacturer of a defective product by showing that they suffered damage that was proximately caused by a characteristic of the manufacturer’s unreasonably dangerous product during a reasonably anticipated use of the product.
In order to establish that the product was “unreasonably dangerous,” a victim must show that the product was unreasonably dangerous in its construction, composition, design, or inadequate warning. A plaintiff may show that the product was “unreasonably dangerous” by showing that:
“at the time the product left its manufacturer’s control, the product deviated in a material way from the manufacturer’s specifications or performance standards for the product or from the otherwise identical products manufactured by the same manufacturer.”
Therefore, if a plaintiff could show that their particular range was significantly different in design from what the manufacturer required in that particular range, this would likely establish that the product was “unreasonably dangerous.” In addition, a victim would be able to establish that their range was “unreasonably dangerous” by showing their particular range differed significantly from other identical ranges by the same manufacturer.
The Campbell’s were successful in their preliminary motion as the court failed to side with GE regarding their requests for summary judgment against the claims of product defect and the use of an expert witness. This case also demonstrates the importance of an expert witness in trial as, in this case, they can support the finding of a local fire marshall or other blame assessment and be important in winning a case in court.
If you have been injured because of a dangerous product, get help now. Contact the Berniard Law Firm by calling 1-866-574-8005.