What are the grounds for a product liability lawsuit? In 2013, a man was making repairs on his 1997 BMW 540i Sedan when it fell on top of him. The car had been lifted with the cantilever jack that was provided by the manufacturer for changing tires. The jack tipped over while he was underneath the car, and he was asphyxiated. The man’s father filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but a federal judge granted BMW’s motion for summary judgment. The jack was made by a German company, and BMW’s owner manual and a label on the jack warned that it was designed solely for changing tires, Moreover, the judge noted that the manual also warned that someone should not lie underneath the car while the jack was being used and that “no reasonable juror" could find that it was not being misused. Product Liability The wrongful death lawsuit was based on a number of liability theories, including strict liability for defective design, negligence and negligent design. The plaintiff also argued that the misuse of the jack was “foreseeable" and that BMW and the jack manufacturer had reason to know that users would disregard the warnings. The judge disagreed, however, finding it was reasonable for BMW to assume that the warning would be read and followed and that the jack was not defective or unreasonably dangerous. In sum, the judge found that the man lifted the vehicle with the jack, did not use the jack stand, and then made repairs while underneath the vehicle “in direct opposition to warnings in the owner’s manual and on the jack itself." If the warnings had been deficient, or had not provided, BMW and the jack manufacturer may have been held responsible for the man’s death. Because, the jack was not used correctly, there was no proof of causation under the negligence and negligent design claims. While this death is sad and tragic, this case illustrates the basis of a wrongful death/product liability. There are cases when manufacturing or design defects in consumer products can cause injury or death. Moreover, if consumers are not sufficiently warned about the risks of misusing a product, or its inherent dangers, this may also be the basis for a product liability lawsuit. If you or a loved one was injured by a defective or dangerous product, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you obtain meaningful compensation.
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