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Bystanders in Product Liability

Bystanders in Product Liability

Product Liability Attorneys Indianapolis

In most product liability cases, the person bringing suit is the user of a product who was injured by what is alleged to be either defective design or manufacturing, or a failure to warn of potential hazards. However, in some situations, bystanders may also be injured, and depending on the facts of the situation, they may be able to receive compensation for their injuries.

Circumstances Surrounding Bystander Injury

While the Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA) governs all actions brought by users or consumers, bystanders are explicitly included. Section § 34-6-2-29 specifies that a consumer is either a user of the product or any bystander who might “reasonably be expected to be in the vicinity of the product during its reasonably expected use.” While this does not include every bystander in every situation, it does permit those unreasonably affected by a product’s misuse or defective design to bring suit. It also permits bystanders to bring suit in strict product liability as well as negligence.

The major difference between a bystander’s injury from a defective product and a user’s injury is that a bystander may have more possible defendants from which to choose if bringing suit in negligence. For example, if a firework explodes prematurely and causes injury to the person who set it, and then to a bystander, the bystander may, at least in theory, bring suit not only against the manufacturer, but also potentially against the seller and even the person who set the firework if they think there was negligence involved.

Negligence and Strict Product Liability Actions

In order to establish a case in negligence for product liability, three criteria must be met as established in Natural Gas Odorizing, Inc. v Downs (1997): (1) The product must be shown to be “defective and unreasonably dangerous;” (2) The defective condition lasted at the time the product left the defendant’s control (in other words, the defendant allowed the product into the stream of commerce in a dangerous condition); and (3) the defective condition of the product was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. All of these can in theory be proven against any defendant by an injured bystander – for example, in the previous example, if the bystander can show the firework was dangerous or defective once the setter relinquished control, they might be found liable along with the manufacturer.

Strict liability, by comparison, is only enforceable against sellers or others placing products in the stream of commerce. If (1) the injured person is “reasonably foreseeable” as belonging to the class of people that might be injured by the product’s defectiveness, and (2) the product reaches consumers substantially unaltered from its defective condition, that seller will very likely be held liable, regardless of care taken. While bringing suit in negligence might be easier for many bystanders, a strict product liability suit may still be possible to bring, especially if bystanders are part of the “reasonably foreseeable” class that might be injured by a product being defective.

Consult An Experienced Indiana Attorney

Product liability is a notoriously complex and time-consuming field, and if you are blindsided by a defective product, you may have no idea where to begin in getting your life back together. Call the Indiana product liability attorneys at Holland & Holland today to get on the path back to normal.

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