Autumn Color, Winter Wonderlands, and Implied Warranty: A Brief Intro to Product Liability in Massachusetts

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Autumn is quickly turning to winter here in New England. Soon, the last of the leaves will have been raked and bagged up, just in time to shovel the front walk and driveway after the first snowfall. Or, like millions of others, perhaps you turn to leaf- and snow-removal tools with more horsepower than a rake or shovel. Snow blowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, snowplow attachments for vehicles, and other power tools can make clean-up easier after Mother Nature does her worst—but they can also pose the risk for serious injury. The Cleveland Clinic in 2019 estimated that snow blowers, for example, cause more than 5000 injuries annually, ranging from lacerations to amputations.

In this article, we will look at how an injury from a product can become a product liability case.

Strict Liability

Under strict liability, the plaintiff need not prove that the defendant was negligent or was aware that their actions could cause injury. In Massachusetts, for product liability cases, this liability results from the implied warranty of merchantability. Every product sold in the Commonwealth comes with the implied warranty that it is reasonably safe and effective for a reasonable period of time, regardless of any disclaimer or warning given orally (such as by a salesperson) or in writing (such as on product packaging). While a very few product liability suits in Massachusetts are filed based on the duty to exercise reasonable care, the overwhelming majority are filed under the implied warranty of merchantability.

To prevail in a product liability case, the plaintiff needs to prove breach of warranty. Proving breach of warranty requires that:

  • The defendant is a merchant, as defined by law.
  • The product was sold or leased.
  • The product’s use by the plaintiff was foreseeable, i.e., the product was ‘used as intended.’
  • The product was defective
  • The product defect caused the injury.

With regard to the fourth element, a product can be shown to be defective because of a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or the manufacturer/retailer’s failure to warn about potential hazards.

Who Can File a Suit? Against Whom?

The plaintiff can be the original purchaser of the defective product, or the original purchaser’s family members, guests, or employees. The defendant can be any link in the distribution chain through which the product passed—the manufacturer that made it, the wholesaler that stocked it, or the shopkeeper who sold it.

How Long Do I Have to File?

The statute of limitations to file a product liability personal injury suit is three years from the date of the injury or loss.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured by a Defective Product?

If you have been injured by a defective product, winter-weather-related or not, you need skilled legal representation to secure the compensation you need. Contact our office as soon as possible to discuss the particulars of your situation and what we can do for you.

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