Clarification of Test in Product Liability Cases from Florida Supreme Court

Product liability cases can get complicated, with a lot of different facts to evaluate to build a case. It makes a world of difference to have a product liability attorney on your side if you have been injured by a product and hope to be compensated for your damages.

An example of the complexities of product liability cases can be found in the case of Aubin v. Union Carbide. In this case, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision to require more definite proof from those who have been injured. The story began with a man named William Aubin, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma (incurable, fatal cancer). His claim for compensation was that he was exposed to a chemicals at work that contained asbestos. The joint compound and texture sprays that he worked with were created by Georgia Pacific, but Union Carbide was the company that provided the asbestos to Georgia Pacific. Although Georgia Pacific could potentially be held accountable for not warning users of their products to wear masks and beware of danger, Aubin felt that Union Carbide should be held responsible in his product liability claim.

The case spent years in litigation before a verdict was finally returned by a jury that held Union Carbide responsible for 40% of a $14 million judgment and the other defendants responsible for the rest. However, an appeal was filed and the jury’s verdict was undone because it was suggested that a different test should have been used to decide the case.

The test that had been used stated that a product is identified as having a design defect if the functioning of the product is not what one could reasonably expect. The alternative risk utility test states that the balance of risk versus benefit of using the product should be considered. With this test, the product manufacturers are more likely to escape liability as long as there was more benefit than risk associated with the product’s use.

When the case came to the Florida Supreme Court, they stuck with the consumer expectations test in cases that involve design defects. This ultimately meant that consumers would be able to pursue cases of product liability without additional obstacles and that product manufacturers could still be held responsible for designing unsafe products.

Because the process and investigation of product liability cases can be complicated and confusing, you should seek the advice and free consultation of a product liability attorney before attempting to proceed with the case on your own.

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