“Our attorneys have extensive experience in all areas of product
liability law. We have helped our clients obtain significant verdicts
and settlements needed for a lifetime of medical treatment and financial
- Partner, Matt Birch
Product Defects Can Be Deadly. Call Us if You Were Injured.
Designers and manufacturers of consumer products and industrial equipment are required to ensure their products are safe from defects that can cause injury or death. Consumer safety laws are clear that if someone gets injured while using the product in a manner deemed to be reasonable and safe, the manufacturer may be held liable for money damages.
If you’ve been injured while using a dangerous product, contact an experienced product liability trial lawyer at Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, in Kansas City, Missouri. For 60 years, we’ve been the law firm people turn to when seeking compensation for injuries and wrongful death caused by someone’s negligence.
We have experience in defective product cases in a wide range of industries, including:
- Automotive defects
- Defective industrial products and construction equipment
- Defective home appliances and power tools
- Defective medical devices and dangerous implants
- Dangerous medications
- Environmental hazards from chemical products
- Unsafe toys
We Know How to Win a Product Liability Claim in the Midwest.
Manufacturers have been successfully getting additional court protection from liability over the past several years. As your attorney, we’ll have to prove that your injury was a direct result of a design or manufacturing defect and that your injuries led directly to substantial financial damages. Our firm works with a network of independent experts to investigate and prepare the strongest, most effective case your favor. By preparing to win in court, we also increase our chances at the negotiating table.
Contact our product liability lawyers to learn more about our record of success. Our experienced trial attorneys represent clients in cases throughout Missouri, Kansas and the Midwest.
You can call us at (816) 542-5999 to arrange a free consultation. If you can’t come to us, we’ll try our best to come to you. Contact us today.
Q:What is product liability?
A:Product liability is the body of law that provides for compensation for physical injuries and property damage resulting from defective and unreasonably dangerous products and from the failure of a manufacturer or seller to warn the consumer of product dangers.
Q:What is a "failure to warn" or "defective design" claim?
A:Failure to warn is the claim that a manufacturer failed to provide directions for the safe use of a product or failed to warn the consumer against dangers inherent in product misuse. For example, a manufacturer who sells a painkiller without warning that use of the drug could impair the user’s ability to drive a car or operate machinery may be liable if the consumer is injured. Defective design is the claim that a product is, at the time it is sold, in a defective condition, making it unreasonably dangerous to the ordinary consumer. For example, a seller who designs a circular power saw that does not include a blade guard may be liable if the user suffers an injury from the unguarded blade.
Q:What if the consumer uses the product in a way that is not intended by the manufacturer and the consumer is injured?
A:This is a concept known as “foreseeable misuse.” Manufacturers are required to anticipate the real-world uses of their products and are responsible for “foreseeable misuse” by the consumer. Foreseeable misuse includes foreseeable product alterations by the consumer. A manufacturer must also warn a consumer of dangers associated with product misuse.
Q:What kind of claims can be brought for product liability?
A:The alternative theories of liability in a product liability case are (1) strict liability; (2) negligence; and (3) breach of warranty. Sometimes, all three theories are pursued in one case.
Q:What is strict liability?
A:Strict liability is the legal principle that a person or company that sells a product in a “defective condition” that is unreasonably dangerous to the ordinary user may be liable for any resulting property damage or physical injuries. The defect may be in the product’s design or manufacturing, in the product’s container or packaging, or in the instructions or warning necessary for the product’s safe use. In a strict liability case, the injured person is not required to prove the manufacturer or seller was negligent.
Q:What is the theory of negligence in product liability cases?
A:Negligence involves a breach of the duty of care the manufacturer or another liable entity owes to consumers. In other words, if a manufacturer or similar party fails to take reasonable steps to prevent ordinary consumers from suffering foreseeable injuries or harm, that manufacturer or similar party could be considered “negligent.” Manufacturers, distributors, and other entities owe consumers a duty of care in regards to product design, manufacturing, assembling, and instructions and warnings. This means that they have a responsibility to design, manufacture, and label products in a way that reasonably prevents consumer harm.
Q:What is breach of warranty?
A:Breach of warranty occurs when a product manufacturer, distributor, or similar entity violates an express or implied warranty to consumers. Such warranties typically involve the representation of the product to the public, which might include representation of what the product does, how it should be used, and the product’s purpose. When a product does not perform as expected or as represented, this typically proves that there was a breach of warranty.
Q:What damages can I recover in a product liability case?
A:When a defective product causes harm to consumers, injured individuals can seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are any losses or damages that can be assigned a set dollar amount. Non-economic damages are those losses that do not necessarily have a monetary value attached to them, but which nevertheless lead to significant suffering for the affected individual.
Q:What are some examples of economic damages?
A:As mentioned in the previous question, economic damages are any damages with a specific dollar amount/monetary value. Examples of economic damages include medical bills for past and current treatment and care, future projected medical expenses, lost income/wages from time taken off work, lost future earnings, loss of earning capacity when injuries are disabling, the value of household and childcare services provided for no pay, funeral/burial expenses, and more.
Q:What are some common non-economic damages?
A:While every case is unique and, therefore, the exact economic and non-economic damages you could recover will differ, many product liability cases allow plaintiffs to seek the following non-economic damages: pain and suffering, emotional distress, trauma, mental anguish, inconvenience, disfigurement, physical impairment/disability, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of love and companionship, and more. While all non-economic damages are capped in Kansas at $250,000, regardless of the severity of the victim’s injuries and damages, the state of Missouri does not have any cap on non-economic damages in product liability cases. However, there is a cap on non-economic damages in Missouri in medical malpractice and negligence cases.
Q:What are punitive damages, and can I recover them in my product liability case?
A:Punitive damages are distinct from both economic and non-economic damages in that they are not based on the degree of injury the plaintiff has suffered. Instead, punitive damages are meant to punish defendants for acting with “reckless disregard” for the safety of others or for “wanton or intentional” misconduct. It is exceedingly rare to recover punitive damages in product liability cases, but it is not impossible. In some circumstances, pursuing punitive damages may be appropriate. We encourage you to reach out to our tam for a free consultation to learn more, including whether punitive damages may apply in your product liability case.
Q:How does your firm decide whether to accept a product liability case?
A:When determining whether to accept a product liability case, our firm looks at a number of factors, including the probable resolution versus the cost of litigation. Product liability cases are very complex and can be extremely time-consuming and expensive to pursue. Our firm’s policy is to only accept those cases that we believe contain enough merit to warrant the costs associated with investigating and litigating the case, as well as those that we believe will result in a significant favorable outcome for our clients.
Q:How does the process work?
A:When you bring a potential case to our firm, we begin with a free initial consultation. During this consultation, we will learn the facts of the case as you know them and decide whether your case is one that we believe we can win, one that we believe merits litigation, and one that falls within our area of experience and skill. If we decide to accept your case, we will then begin the investigation phase. This involves collecting all relevant records and documents, such as accident reports, medical records, product and recall reports, company brochures, and more. Before obtaining any sensitive documents, we will always obtain your written authorization. If we believe there is a strong possibility that a product was defective, we will submit it to the appropriate experts for review, asking them for their opinions on the issues of the defective nature of the product, damages, and causation. This review can be quite expensive and time-consuming (anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per expert and up and often taking several months). The financial arrangements for investigations are determined on a case-by-case basis. If, after consultation with experts, we believe that we can satisfy our burden of proof, we recommend that the case be filed. We handle these cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you are not required to pay any out-of-pocket expenses.
Q:What is crashworthiness?
A:Crashworthiness means the protection that a motor vehicle (or other means of conveyance, such as an airplane or train) affords its passengers against personal injury or death as a result of an accident. An automobile accident can often be broken down into two collisions. In the first collision, an automobile collides with another automobile or with a stationary object. The occupants of the vehicle usually sustain little or no injury at this stage. Personal injuries occur most frequently in the second collision, in which the occupants are thrown against or collide with some part of their automobile. Crashworthiness is concerned with those injuries resulting solely from the second collision, over and above those suffered in the first collision.
Q:What must manufacturers do to protect vehicle occupants from injuries?
A:The law of nearly every state imposes a duty on automobile manufacturers to use reasonable care to make a reasonably crashworthy automobile. Courts have stated on numerous occasions that collisions are readily foreseeable as part of the normal and expected use of an automobile. And while automobiles are not made for the purpose of colliding with each other, an inevitable part of normal automobile use results in collisions and injury producing impacts. A manufacturer’s liability (legal responsibility for injuries) in a crashworthiness action is limited to the injuries caused by a defect—those injuries over and above the injuries that would have occurred as a result of the collision alone, absent a defect (unless the defect also caused the collision).
Q:How does your firm investigate a crashworthiness action?
A:The most important evidence in a crashworthiness action is the vehicle(s) involved in the accident. We typically locate and purchase the accident vehicle and have it evaluated by automotive design experts. We inspect the accident scene, interview witnesses, and hire an accident reconstructionist to assist us in determining how the accident occurred. We also use “biomechanical engineers,” people who are experts in the area of injury causation. They assist us in determining how a person’s injuries were caused and whether a defective design or manufacturing defect played a part in causing the injuries.
Q:What if the accident vehicle no longer exists?
A:Although it is very important to preserve an accident vehicle in its post-accident condition, the accident vehicle may be at a location that you are not aware of, such as a salvage yard. Even if the accident vehicle no longer exists, if there are adequate photographs of the accident vehicle, these are sometimes enough to pursue a crashworthiness action. Although it is very difficult, we have successfully prosecuted crashworthiness actions without an accident vehicle.
Q:What types of crashworthiness actions does your firm handle?
A:We handle all types of crashworthiness actions. We have represented plaintiffs in cases against General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Subaru, Honda, Yamaha, Nissan, and Toyota. We have investigated and pursued crashworthiness cases that involve failure to install appropriate safety equipment (such as seatbelts and airbags); cases in which a vehicle has caught fire after an accident; rollover accidents caused by an unstable vehicle, such as a sport utility vehicle; rollover accidents wherein the roof collapsed during the accident; accidents in which airbags have failed to deploy; and accidents involving safety equipment failure, such as the failure of a seatbelt to properly restrain an occupant. We have even pursued a claim that the design of a locomotive engine with a nose door unnecessarily exposed the crew in the cab to risk of death by fire.
Q:What things are necessary to bring a crashworthiness lawsuit?
A:To successfully prosecute a crashworthiness action, we must prove three things: (1) a defect in the automobile or a breach of a warranty regarding the vehicle; (2) causation; and (3) damages.
Q:What is a defect?
A:There are three types of product defects. First, a “manufacturing defect” is a flaw in the manufacturing process, resulting in a product that differs from the manufacturer’s intended result. For example, the failure to include welds in the roof support structure of a vehicle, despite design drawings calling for the welds, would constitute a manufacturing defect. Second, there are products which are “perfectly” manufactured but are nevertheless unsafe. This is called a “design defect.” For example, a vehicle designed with its fuel tank in an exposed place vulnerable to impact that could rupture in foreseeable collisions would be a design defect. Third, products that are dangerous because they lack adequate warnings or instructions have what are known as “marketing defects” or “labeling defects.” A manufacturer who fails to warn users and consumers about potentially dangerous aspects of an automobile could be found responsible under a failure to warn theory. Crashworthiness claims are also sometimes founded on breach of warranty theories. Although there are many types of warranties (express, implied, etc.), the essence of a warranty is that an automobile manufacturer promises that a vehicle will perform in a certain manner. If the vehicle does not perform as promised, and causes injuries and damages, the manufacturer may be liable under a breach of warranty theory.
Q:What is causation?
A:Causation is a legal term that means that there must be a cause-and-effect link between the failure of an automobile manufacturer to provide a safe vehicle and the injuries that an individual suffered. For example, if a person is involved in an automobile accident and suffers serious head injuries because the airbag failed to deploy, it must be proven that had the airbag deployed, the driver or occupant would not have sustained the head injuries or that the injuries would not have been as severe.
Q:What if I caused the accident?
A:This may not be the whole story or fair to you. The crashworthiness theory recognizes that every accident has multiple causes and focuses on the enhancement of resulting injuries caused by the defective vehicle. It is enough if the defect increased a person’s injuries. Any “fault” by a driver in causing the accident might not prevent one from recovering for injuries in a crashworthiness action. The extent to which your fault or the fault of another driver can be compared varies according to state law.
Q:If I bring my crashworthiness case to you, what will you do?
A:The first thing we do is take steps to make sure the vehicle is preserved, if possible. We then interview the client to start the process of gathering facts and circumstances surrounding the accident and to assess the severity of the client’s injuries. After we are comfortable that the case warrants further investigation, we get the police reports, interview witnesses, find and secure the accident vehicle, and then work with experts to reconstruct the accident, evaluate the vehicle’s design, and answer the biomechanical questions of injury-causation. After the investigation, if we believe there is a strong probability that a defect in the automobile caused or contributed to cause the client’s injuries, we meet with the client again and offer to pursue a crashworthiness case on their behalf.