We’ve been looking in recent posts at the topic of proving liability for defective products. As we’ve noted, product liability law varies from state to state and Kentucky law is relatively favorable to businesses compared to some states.
This is seen, for example, in the presumptions that a product is not defective if it conformed to industry standard, that injuries which occur five years after the date of manufacture or sale are not defective; and that manufacturers’ liability is limited to injuries or deaths which would have occurred if the product was in its original, unmodified condition.
Product modification is not only tinkering around with a product, but also includes failure to exercise “routine care and maintenance,” though it does not include ordinary wear and tear or alterations or modifications specified by the manufacturer. If the modification or failure to exercise reasonable care was a substantial cause of the accident, the manufacturer cannot be held liable, even if the manufacturer did have some fault or if the product was defective in some way. The law is thus biased in favor of manufacturers.
Kentucky law also specifies that wholesalers, distributors and retailers of defective products cannot be held liable if they distribute or sell products in their original manufactured condition, unless they somehow breach an express warranty made to the buyer or if they knew—or should have known—about a defective condition which made the product unreasonably dangerous to consumers.
Working through these pro-business presumptions in product liability cases is not necessarily an easy matter. It depends on the theory of liability asserted in the case, as well as the available evidence. Consumers looking to hold a Kentucky business liable for a defective product should always work with an experienced attorney not only to ensure they build the strongest case possible for liability, but also for damages.