Whether you live in a retirement home in Cape Coral or at an amusement park in Orlando, every Floridian relies on countless products to make it through the day. If one of these products causes an injury or property damage, you may be able to receive compensation for those damages. From prescription drug defects to faulty kitchen appliances, product liability lawsuits seek to hold manufacturers accountable for their dangerous products.
The table below provides summaries of important aspects of Florida's product liability laws, followed by more in-depth explanations of statutes of limitation, limits on damages, defenses to product liability claims, and more.
|Statute of Limitations||
4 years for injury to person or property (Sec. 95.11(3))
2 years for wrongful death Sec. 95.11(4)(d))
|Discovery Rule Used||Yes (95.031(2)(b))|
|Statute of Repose||12 years (95.031(2)(b))|
|Limits on Damages||Limits on punitive damages (Sec. 768.73); economic loss rule (Indem. Ins. Co. of N. Am. v. Am. Aviation, Inc..)|
|Comparative Fault||Pure Comparative Fault (Sec. 768.81(2))|
Whether your child was injured by a defective toy or your new gadget caused property damage to your house, you have four years to file a products liability lawsuit. However, the discovery rule applies in these cases which means the clock starts ticking on the date the facts giving rise to the cause of action were (or should have been) discovered. If you're dealing with a product that has an expected useful life of 10 years or less, you can't file a lawsuit if the harm was caused more than 12 years after delivery of the product to its first purchaser, with some exceptions. This is called the "statute of repose."
Limits on Damages
Florida follows the pure comparative negligence rule which states that if you are partially at fault for an accident, you may still file a lawsuit, but your recovery of damages will be reduced in proportion to your fault. Therefore, if a defective product causes $100,000 in damage to your property, but you were 70 percent at fault, your $100,000 award will be reduced by $70,000. Florida also follows the economic loss doctrine which says that you can't pursue a product liability claim where the only damages suffered are economic losses (like lost profits); those are better left for contract lawsuits.
Basis for Liability
In deciding whether to hold someone liable for their harmful product, a court will usually discuss two types of theories: products liability and negligence. Product liability focuses on the product itself while negligence focuses on the actions of the manufacturer, seller, and/or distributor. To prove that a defendant should be held strictly liable for a defective product, you must show that the product had a defect which caused an unreasonably dangerous condition. A product can be considered defective due to design, manufacturing, or marketing defects.
In defective design cases, the claim is that the manufacturer intended for the product to turn out the way that it did, and that the manufacturer's intended design is unreasonably dangerous. In Florida, whether something is unreasonably dangerous is decided by the consumer-expectation test. This test says that a product is considered unreasonably dangerous if it fails to perform as safely as a reasonable consumer would expect when using it as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
In manufacturing defect cases, the claim is that something went wrong during the manufacturing process, so that even if the product was designed to be safe, the product that left the manufacturing facility was not in line with that design. If that product then causes an injury when it's being used for its intended purposes, the manufacturer must be held liable for those injuries.
Marketing defects focus on the actions by the manufacturer or supply chain of the product. These claims can include allegations that the distributor failed to include adequate warnings about a product that was otherwise properly designed and manufactured. Here, the plaintiff must show that there were foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product; that these risks could have been reduced or eliminated by providing reasonable instructions or warnings; and that the failure to include those instructions or warnings made the product unreasonably dangerous.
To fight a product liability suit, a defendant may argue that the product was modified after it left the defendant's control, or that unforeseeable misuse of the product was the sole cause of the damage. Another argument is that the plaintiff knew about the danger of using the product and assumed the risk anyway. It's important to note that in a claim alleging defective design, the court must consider the facts in relation to the state of the art of scientific and technical knowledge at the time the product was made, not at the time the injury or damage occurred.
Filing a Product Liability Claim? An Attorney Can Help
Whether you were injured by a defectively made blender or burned by a Christmas toy that should have come with a warning, you shouldn't have to bear the entire financial weight of those injuries. Companies should be held accountable for their defective, dangerous products. Assess the strength of your claim by speaking with a Florida injury law attorney familiar with the state's product liability laws.
Contact a qualified attorney.