When Products Go Wrong: Understanding the Different Product-Based Lawsuits

We live in a world where we rely heavily on products to make our lives easier and more convenient. From kitchen appliances to electronics, we trust that these products will perform as advertised and not cause any harm or damage. However, when these products fail to meet our expectations, the resulting legal disputes can be quite challenging to navigate.

In this article, we will explore the different types of product-based lawsuits and what you need to know about them.

What Can Go Wrong with Products?

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As consumers, we expect the products we purchase to be safe, reliable, and perform as advertised. However, products can go wrong in a variety of ways, leading to potential hazards or harm. Here are some common issues that can arise with products:

Chemical Defects

Chemical defects in products can result in severe legal consequences such as lawsuits due to the presence of harmful or hazardous substances that may pose health risks to consumers. Such defects can arise from manufacturing contamination, improper chemical use, or non-compliance with regulatory standards.

One example of a lawsuit related to chemical defects is the hair straightener cancer lawsuit. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), women who use chemical hair straightening products regularly may have an increased risk of developing hormone-related cancers such as uterine and breast cancer, based on an 11-year study.

TorHoerman Law notes that if you or your loved ones have been harmed by hair straightening products, it is essential to take legal action to hold the responsible parties accountable for the damages incurred.

Design Defects

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Design defects in products can lead to serious consequences and result in lawsuits. Design defects refer to inherent flaws or mistakes in the design of a product that makes it unsafe or unfit for its intended use. When a product’s design is defective, it can pose risks of harm to consumers, leading to injuries, damages, or even fatalities.

In product liability lawsuits related to design defects, the injured parties may argue that the product’s design was inherently flawed and that the manufacturer or designer failed to exercise reasonable care in creating a safe design. The plaintiffs may need to prove that the design defect was the direct cause of their injuries or damages.

Design defect lawsuits can be complex, involving expert testimony, technical analysis, and legal arguments. The outcome of such lawsuits can have significant financial and reputational implications for manufacturers or designers.

Manufacturing Defects

A manufacturing defect refers to a flaw or mistake that occurs during the production or assembly of a product, making it deviate from its intended design or specifications. Manufacturing defects can occur at any stage of the production process and may result in products that are defective, faulty, or unsafe for consumers to use.

Examples of manufacturing defects may include improper assembly, faulty components, incorrect labeling or packaging, or errors in material selection.

Manufacturing defect lawsuits may arise when these defects cause harm or damage to consumers. Manufacturers or distributors may be held liable for damages, including medical expenses, property damage, and compensatory damages.

In August 1999, General Motors (GM) was embroiled in a high-profile personal injury and product liability lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that a faulty gas tank design in GM’s 1979 Chevrolet Malibu caused gas tank explosions that resulted in severe burns for six individuals involved in rear-end collisions.

The plaintiffs sought $4.9 billion in punitive damages. During the trial, the victims presented evidence that indicated GM was aware of the gas tank problem but failed to take action to rectify it due to the associated costs.

This lawsuit shed light on the importance of manufacturers addressing known defects in their products to ensure consumer safety and avoid potential legal repercussions.

Warning/Instruction Defects

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A warning/instruction defect lawsuit refers to a legal claim that arises when a product fails to provide adequate warnings or instructions to consumers, resulting in harm or damages.

Manufacturers have a duty to provide clear and sufficient warnings or instructions about the proper use and potential risks of their products. If a product lacks appropriate warnings or instructions, and a consumer suffers injuries or damages as a result, the manufacturer or distributor may be held liable.

Examples of warning/instruction defects may include failure to warn about potential hazards, inadequate safety instructions, or ambiguous usage guidelines. Ensuring comprehensive and clear warnings or instructions can help prevent such lawsuits and protect consumers.

In 2002, a lawsuit was filed against Philip Morris, now known as Altria Group Inc. (MO), by a woman with lung cancer who claimed that her illness was caused by smoking cigarettes and that the tobacco company failed to warn her about the risks of smoking adequately. The lawsuit resulted in a substantial award of $28 billion in punitive damages and $850,000 in compensatory damages.

However, Philip Morris appealed the case, and after a nine-year legal battle, the amount was eventually reduced to $28 million.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the legal consequences that may arise from a failure to provide sufficient warnings about the risks associated with a product, and the potential impact in terms of compensatory and punitive damages.


It’s really important for both consumers and manufacturers/distributors to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to product-based lawsuits. As a consumer, make sure you read and follow the instructions and warnings that come with your products.

If you believe you’ve been harmed by a defective product, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice. For manufacturers and distributors, safety should always be a top priority. Make sure you follow industry standards, provide clear instructions and warnings, and address any issues or defects that are reported as soon as possible.

Product-based lawsuits are there to protect consumers and ensure that the products we use are safe and reliable. By understanding the different types of defects that can lead to product-based lawsuits, both consumers and manufacturers/distributors can take steps to prevent problems and keep everyone safe.