Product Liability and Failure to Warn

The failure of a manufacturer or seller to warn as to dangers associated with its products may make them liable for the damages suffered by the intended users of the products.  In American Law, the action for damages for failure to warn is widely recognized.

Generally, a manufacturer or seller has a duty to warn against the latent dangers resulting from the foreseeable uses of its products of which the manufacturer or seller knew or should have known.  Pursuant to North Carolina Supreme Court, the manufacturer may be negligent in failing to use proper care to give adequate warning to the user, not only as to dangers arising from unsafe design, or other negligence, but also as to dangers inseparable from a properly made product. The warning must be sufficient to protect third persons who may reasonably be expected to come in contact with the product and be harmed by it; and the duty continues even after the sale. He is also required to give adequate directions for use, when reasonable care calls for them.

A manufacturer has no duty to warn where the product leaves its hands in a non-defective condition and there is no particular hazard against which to warn.  The manufacturer need not educate the intended users on the principles of the product.  A warning of inherent danger is sufficient.

Pursuant to North Carolina Product Liability Law, a manufacturer or seller of a product is not liable for open and obvious risk associated with the product.  Moreover, North Carolina does not impose ‘strict liability’ on product liability cases.  The burden of proving the harm or damage due to the failure to warn is upon the claimant.

We cannot see a machine, device, or piece of equipment sold in America that is not accompanied by an instruction manual, sheet, or label of some kind.  The failure of manufacturers and sellers to properly inform purchasers and other users of a product’s hazards, uses, and misuses is a basis for rendering them legally liable for injuries resulting therefrom under some circumstances.

A manufacturer has no duty to connect safety devices to protect against defects and dangers that are obvious.  In products liability cases, the duty of the manufacturer in tort must be determined by the principles of negligence.  The main elements of an action for products liability based upon negligence include;

  1. evidence of a standard of care owed by the reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances;
  2.  breach of that standard of care;
  3. injury caused directly or proximately by the breach, and;
  4. loss because of the injury.

Regarding standard of care, a manufacturer is under a duty to the intended users of his product to exercise that degree of care in its design and manufacture that a reasonably prudent man would use in similar circumstances. The manufacturer of a machine which is dangerous because of the way in which it functions, and patently so, owes to those who use it a duty merely to make it free from latent defects and concealed dangers. In a case against such a manufacturer, the plaintiff must prove the existence of a latent defect or of a danger not known to him or other users. Liability may also be imposed upon a manufacturer who sells a product that is inherently dangerous.