In the previous post we reviewed U.S. product liability law and who may be held liable for the unsafe products. The product liability law covers a wide range of market participants, not only a direct seller or manufacturer and a customer. Nevertheless, companies can successfully manage the degree of their exposure.
The merchants cannot prevent people from bringing lawsuits against them. But they can improve their chances for a successful defense and expeditious trial.
Firstly, it is important to work on the development of the comprehensive product warnings. The products made available to the general public should incorporate all necessary warnings applicable both to the direct as well as indirect (aka foreseeable) use of those products. Extensive warnings help to minimize the product liability claims arising out of insufficient warnings.
Secondly, the merchants should make sure that safety measures have been incorporated in the product, including safety instructions, if applicable. For example, some products are dangerous when left unpacked or connected to an electrical outlet. In this case they should either contain some safety features, preventing them from injuring the users, or safety instructions, if safety features are not possible or practicable to install. Product safety instructions should be clear, straightforward and understandable to an average user. If instructions are ambiguous and may be misinterpreted by an average layperson, the merchant will be held responsible for any damages resulting thereof.
Even though a good quality of a product and all necessary measures taken by the distributors cannot guaranty that nobody will file a lawsuit against them, certain legal and practical steps minimize the risk of being held responsible for injuries of others. Adequate warnings, safety measures and instructions, standard procedures in manufacturing and distribution of the products, strict compliance with US governmental norms and regulations, and sufficient business insurance are all important parts in business risk management. All possible risks should be carefully considered and evaluated with the assistance of a business attorney before the product enters a US or international market.