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Who Can Be Sued in a Defective Product Lawsuit

UPDATED: June 19, 2018

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Identifying the defendants is an important first step in filing a defective product lawsuit. Depending on the type of product liability claim, there are number of different potential defendants that could be sued. Determining who can be sued in a defective product lawsuit can be a complicated process, but naming the right defendants can ensure full recovery for injuries. As a general rule, all parties included in the chain of distribution can be added as defendants in defective product lawsuits. The following sections breakdown these potential defendants.

Include Manufacturers in Products Liability Litigation

It is important to remember that more than one manufacturer can be a defendant in a products liability litigation. Manufacturers can be large global corporations or individuals working out of their garage. When determining which manufacturers to add as defendants in products liability litigation, remember that certain products could be made up of multiple parts made by multiple manufacturers. For example, if someone is injured by a defective airbag, they should include both the manufacturer of the vehicle and the manufacturer of the airbag itself in their product liability lawsuit.

Also be any participants in the design or marketing of the product who could be linked to the defect should be added to a defective product lawsuit. A potential plaintiff should try to find out the names of all the contractors and consultants who worked with the manufacturer to design the product. A products liability lawsuit should include the company that built the product, and any companies that designed it, contributed parts to it, or inspected it for quality. Any plaintiff looking for a full recovery for their injuries is well served to thoroughly research all parties involved in the construction of a defective product.

Retailers Can Be Defendants in a Defective Product Lawsuit

Although the retail store where the defective product was sold probably had nothing to do with designing or manufacturing the product, generally it should be added as a defendant in a defective product lawsuit. Even injured parties who did not purchase the product may add the retail store as a defendant. Factors to consider in whether or not the retailer of a used product can sued in defective product lawsuits include the nature of the defect, the particular product that was defective, and the rule of law in the state in which the victim wishes to sue.

Wholesalers and Distributors in Defective Product Lawsuits

Manufacturers and retailers are the book ends of the chain of distribution, and can be included as defendants in defective product lawsuits. . All wholesalers or distributors who had their hands on the product in between the manufacturing process and sale of the product should be included.

Products Liability Litigation Against Foreign Corporations

In some products liability litigation, the manufacturer, retailer or other entities in the chain of distribution may be foreign corporations. It is possible to sue a foreign corporation because typically these corporations are subject to the jurisdiction of the court in the state in which they do business (i.e. manufacture or sell their product). However, foreign companies traditionally fight their inclusion in a defective product lawsuit and the requirements of properly serving (i.e., notifying) a foreign corporation of their involvement in a lawsuit can be quite technical and laborious.

Reorganized Corporations

Sometimes the corporation responsible for the design, manufacturing or sale of the product has reorganized or has changed ownership before the injury leading to the product liability lawsuit has occurred. Under the doctrine of successor liability, a successor company may inherit liability for the previous company’s participation in the chain of distribution of a defective product. If possible, successor companies should be named as defendants in defective products lawsuits.

An experienced product liability attorney can be invaluable in helping you determine which companies in the chain of distribution can be added as a defendant in a product liability lawsuit.

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