Liability Claims for Defective Products – What you Need to Know

February 10, 2016

In North Carolina, claims for injuries arising out of defective products are governed by statute.  Generally,  a product manufacturer can face liability for defective design, negligent manufacture, or inadequate warning or instruction.

A “defective design” claim extends to all identical products within a given product line.  To prevail on such a claim, an injured party must prove that the manufacturer unreasonably failed to adopt a safer, practical, technically feasible and reasonable alternative design that would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of harm while retaining the overall usefulness of the product.  This analysis involves a balancing test requiring several factors be weighed to determine potential liability of a manufacturer.  Engineering analysis is routinely required.  Alternatively, an injured victim can seek to prove that when control of the product left the manufacturer, its design was so unreasonable that had a consumer known of its dangers, the consumer would not have used the product.  The manufacturer is protected from liability if the products liability claim is based upon an inherent feature of the product which cannot be eliminated without rendering the product useless, and which is commonly known as a feature of the product.  Additionally, the manufacturer of a prescription drug cannot be held liable if a feature of the drug cannot reasonably be made safe, and adequate warning and instruction has been provided.

A “negligent manufacture” claim extends only to a given product or set of products within a product line.  Such a claim recognizes that there is no defect in the design of the product, but due to some manufacturing or production error, the product was not produced in accordance with its design.  A claim based on “negligent manufacture” is premised on the production error resulting in some hazard associated with the product that would not be foreseen by the ultimate consumer.  A manufacturer may not be held liable under this theory if the product is used contrary to express and adequate instructions or warnings accompanying the product, or if the consumer was aware of the hazard associated with the product and still elected to use the product in a manner that would expose the consumer to the hazard.  Additionally, a manufacturer will generally not be liable if the product was altered or modified by someone else, and such alteration created the hazard.

An “inadequate warning or instruction” claim must show that the product presented an unreasonably dangerous condition the manufacturer knew would exist without adequate warnings or instructions for use of the product.  Additionally, a manufacturer may be held liable if the manufacturer becomes aware that uses of the product create unreasonable risks of harm even after the product leaves the control of the manufacturer.  In such circumstances, the manufacturer may have a duty to recall the product or provide instructions to those who are already consumers of the product.  The manufacturer will not be liable for an open and obvious risk that is common knowledge.  Special rules also apply to drug manufacturers.


Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Brown, Moore & Associates, PLLC, represents personal injury and medical malpractice victims throughout North and South Carolina. The firm’s attorneys have in-depth experience in motor vehicle accident and workers’ compensation litigation, and are known as strong advocates for their clients’ interests. To identify all available legal options, call 800-948-0577 or use this convenient online contact form.