Bringing a Products Liability Claim in South Carolina
Products liability law can be a confusing area of law to understand, in part because products liability claims can be brought under three different and distinct legal theories, called “causes of action.” These theories are: negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. Although there are similarities between these causes of action, there are also important differences.
If you have been injured by a product, it is important to consult with a products liability attorney to find out which cause of action gives you the highest chance of success.
Products Liability Claims – Negligence
A products liability claim in negligence requires that the injured party, called the plaintiff, establish four elements:
The plaintiff was injured by the product;
At the time of the accident, the product was in essentially the same condition as it was when it left the hands of the defendant;
The injury occurred because the product was in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the user; and
- The defendant seller or manufacturer failed to exercise due care in some respect. Bragg v. Hi-Ranger, Inc., 319 S.C. 531 (1995).
In a negligence claim, the focus is on the conduct of the defendant, and the defendant must be at fault in order to be liable.
Products Liability Claims – Strict Liability
Although similar to negligence in some ways, strict liability claims can often be easier for plaintiffs to bring. This is because a strict liability claim only requires that the plaintiff prove the first of three elements listed above: that the plaintiff was injured, that the product was in a defective or unreasonably dangerous condition, and that the product was unchanged from the time it left the defendant.
In a strict liability claim, the plaintiff does not need to establish that the seller or manufacturer failed to exercise due care. In this sense, the focus is on the condition of the product rather than the actions of the defendant. The primary question is, “was the product unreasonably dangerous or defective?”
Products Liability Claims – Breach of Warranty
Just like a negligence claim an a strict liability claim, a breach of warranty claim must also prove 1) that the plaintiff was injured, 2) that the product was in a defective or unreasonably dangerous condition, and 3) that the product was unchanged from the time it left the defendant. However, a breach of warranty claim also requires two additional elements:
- The defendant seller or manufacturer made a warranty to the plaintiff; and
- There was a breach of this warranty at the time the product left the hands of the defendant.
It is worth noting that warranties can be express (spoken or written) or implied. South Carolina law automatically applies some warranties, such as the implied warranty of merchantability, to most products, even if that warranty is not mentioned in the sales contract.