Georgians use countless products every day, from koozies to keep your sweet tea cold, to prescriptions for fighting that famous Georgia pollen. A product liability lawsuit is the legal action you take when one of these products causes an injury or property damage. If you've been harmed by a defective product, you may be able to receive compensation from the manufacturer.
The table below provides summaries of important aspects of Georgia's product liability laws, followed by more in-depth explanations of time limits, limits on damages, defenses to product liability claims, and more.
|Statute of Limitations||
2 years for personal injury (Sec. 9-3-33)
4 years for damage to personal property (Sec. 9-3-31)
|Discovery Rule Used||Yes (King v. Seitzingers, Inc., 160 Ga. App. 318 (1981))|
|Statute of Repose||10 years after the date of first sale (with some exceptions) (Sec. 51-1-11(b)(2))|
|Limits on Damages||Intermediate rule of the economic loss doctrine (Vulcan Materials Co. v. Driltech, Inc., 251 Ga. 383 (1983)); 75 percent of punitive damages given to the state (Sec. 51-12-5.1)|
|Comparative Fault||Modified comparative negligence rule (Sec. 51-12-33)|
Georgia law seeks to hold manufacturers accountable for defective products that cause injury or property damage. However, there are time limits for filing product liability lawsuits. You have two years to file a personal injury claim, and four years for property damage claims. However, Georgia's discovery rule states that the time is measured from when you discovered (or should have discovered) both the injury and the defective product's role in causing it.
Georgia also has a statute of repose which says that if an injury occurs outside of a given time frame, you cannot seek damages for that injury. In Georgia, that time frame is 10 years, and it is measured from the first sale of the product for use or consumption. This rule applies to strict liability claims and some negligence claims, but not to allegations regarding a manufacturer's failure to warn.
Limits on Damages
Georgia law also limits damages in some product liability cases. Under the modified comparative negligence rule, you may not recover damages if you were 50 percent or more at fault for causing the injuries or property damage. If you were less than 50 percent at fault, you may recover damages, but they will be reduced in proportion to the degree to which you were to blame. So, a $100,000 award will be reduced by $40,000 if you were 40 percent at fault.
Georgia also has its own economic loss rule where you are not allowed to file a product liability suit if the only damage was to the product itself, not to any person or other property. However, Georgia law does provide an exception to this rule for sudden and calamitous events which cause a risk of injury to people or other property. Another exception exists for when a purchaser relies on misrepresentation.
Lastly, there is no cap on punitive damages in Georgia, but the state does take 75 percent of punitive damages awarded in product liability cases.
Basis for Liability
Theories of Liability
In defective design cases, the claim is that the manufacturer intended for the product to turn out the way that it did, and that that design is unreasonably dangerous. The product is unreasonably dangerous if the risks inherent in a product design outweigh the benefit of the product designed in that way. Courts will often look at whether the manufacturer could have used a reasonable alternative design which would have been safer.
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 manufacturing process produced an unsafe product.
A plaintiff may also argue that the manufacturer had a duty to warn people of nonobvious, foreseeable dangers arising from the normal use of its product. This duty exists even after the product is sold, and extends to users, consumers, and purchasers.
A defendant in a product liability suit 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. The defendant can also try to refute any of the elements discussed above. For example, in a failure to warn case, the defendant can argue that there was no duty to warn the consumer because the danger posed by the product was obvious to the user.
Get Legal Help with Your Product Liability Issue in Georgia
Whether you were injured by an exploding hoverboard or you hit a mailbox thanks to faulty brakes, product defects can cause serious damage and injuries. If you've been harmed by a defective product, the manufacturer should be held accountable, and should help cover the costs of that damage. To learn more, contact a local personal injury attorney who will be familiar with Georgia's product liability laws and explain how they apply to your unique situation.
Contact a qualified attorney.