In many personal injury cases, the responsible party is easy to identify. However, this is not always the case when it comes to product liability. Is the manufacturer responsible for your injuries? What about the vendor who sold the product to you?
The answer is not necessarily straightforward. There are several factors that determine who is responsible in a product liability case.
Strict liability versus negligence
In many types of personal injury cases, including some product liability claims, you have to prove negligence on the part of manufacturers or sellers of a defective product. However, if the product is unreasonably dangerous, the case may be subject to strict liability.
If this is the case, you do not have to prove that anyone was negligent. You merely have to prove that a product was dangerous and that you sustained injury from using it. This means that there are more possible defendants in a strict liability case than one involving negligence.
Manufacturer versus seller
When strict liability applies, you generally have the right to hold any member of the supply chain that made the defective product available to the public responsible for your injuries. This includes retailers and distributors as well as manufacturers.
However, Illinois does have a “seller’s exception” statute. This protects retailers and distributors who did not have any control over the manufacture of the product and were genuinely unaware that the product was dangerous. These parties may file an affidavit attesting to such and identifying the manufacturer responsible for the defective product. The court may dismiss strict liability claims against distributors and retailers on the basis of the affidavit.
The seller’s exception in Illinois only applies to strict liability claims. It does not apply to product liability claims alleging negligence on the part of distributors or retailers.