If you suffer an injury from a defective product, you may be able to recover personal injury compensation under the Kansas Product Liability Act. Application of the law determines whether manufacturers and sellers are legally responsible for compensating a victim injured by a defective product.
Products covered by the Kansas Product Liability Act include all products sold or resold for use or consumption. A product seller governed by the statute includes any person or entity whose business is sale or resale, including a manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or distributor of the product, except health care providers using products in the course of rendering professional services.
A product liability claim is defined by the statute to include:
any claim or action brought for harm caused by the manufacture, production, making, construction, fabrication, design, formula, preparation, assembly, installation, testing, warnings, instructions, marketing, packaging, storage or labeling of the relevant product.
Compensation recoverable under the statute includes harm resulting from:
However, economic losses (whether direct or consequential) are not recoverable under the law.
For liability purposes, there are three different ways that a product can be defective:
Manufacturing defects occur when a final product does not conform to the design specifications or performance standards, or deviates in a material manner from products that are otherwise identical. This type of defect can occur by use of defective or improper materials in the manufacturing process, a process that results in parts missing from the product, or improper assembly during the manufacturing process.
Design defects occur when a product is unreasonably dangerous (as determined by a consumer expectations test), even when manufactured according to the original design specifications. An example would include a piece of farm equipment designed without a guard or protective device to prevent foreseeable injuries.
A manufacturer’s or seller’s failure to provide sufficient warnings or instructions for use can turn even a perfectly designed and manufactured product into a defective product. However, under the Act, there is no duty to warn of obvious hazards or of situations where “safeguards, precautions and actions would or should have been taken by a reasonable user or consumer.”
Depending on the circumstances, a victim may recover compensation under three different theories of liability: strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty. Each theory has specific standards of proof that must be met.
Strict liability does not require the victim to demonstrate negligence or misconduct by the manufacturer. Defects in product design and manufacture are not relevant. Instead, the victim must establish three criteria about the product itself:
In contrast, to recover compensation on the basis on negligence, the victim must demonstrate these elements relating to the seller’s conduct:
Recovering compensation based on breach of an express or implied warranty similarly requires the victim to demonstrate specific criteria. In some cases, there will be an express warranty from the seller. In all cases in Kansas, an implied warranty of merchantability applies by operation of law. That warranty requires products to be “fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.”
When a victim brings a product liability action, the seller may have defenses against the claim. The statute provides several specific defenses that may apply, depending on the circumstances.
In addition, the Kansas rule of comparative negligence applies to product liability cases, as it does to all personal injury cases in the state. If the product seller can show that the victim’s own conduct contributed to his or her injuries, the victim’s recovery may be reduced or even barred completely. Additional information about the rule is available in our article, How Does the Kansas Comparative Negligence Rule Affect Your Compensation in a Personal Injury Case?
Kansas law about defective products is extremely complex. The statute and court decisions include many additional legal rules that apply to a defective product claim.
A product liability claim presents complex legal and factual issues. If you suffer serious injuries when using a product — and you think the product may present a defective product situation — you should talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will analyze the facts of your case and explain the law that applies in the process of determining whether you have a claim to pursue.
At the Salina, Kansas law firm Hampton & Royce, L.C., we assist clients throughout the state with personal injury matters, including product liability claims for injuries from defective products. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with us.