Dustin Mueller - MSM&C

Attorney at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling

Practice Areas: Motor Vehicle Accidents, Workers’ Compensation, Property Insurance Claims

In September 2023, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported twelve product recalls from major companies, including a Stihl chainsaw, Whirlpool washer and dryer, Pirelli tire, and a Honda lawnmower. Even trusted companies can manufacture defective products, which put users at risk of injury. Product liability in Iowa revolves around the legal responsibility manufacturers, distributors, and sellers have when a consumer gets injured due to a defective product. In simple terms, if someone buys a product and gets hurt because something is wrong with it, Iowa law allows for legal action against those who made or sold the item. Unlike some states, Iowa doesn’t strictly adhere to federal guidelines on product liability, offering its own set of rules and regulations. These laws aim to protect consumers and ensure products on the shelves are safe for use. 

Key Elements for a Successful Product Liability Claim

To win a product liability case in Iowa, certain key elements must be present. First, it must be proven the product in question is indeed defective. Defects can range from design flaws to manufacturing errors or even inadequate warnings. Second, a direct link between the defective product and the injury sustained needs to be established. In other words, it should be clear injury would not have occurred if the product had been in proper condition. Third, the product must have been used in a way the manufacturer intended or could reasonably expect. Using a product in an unconventional manner might weaken a claim. Lastly, actual harm or injury must have occurred; mere exposure to a defective product is usually not enough. 

Types of Defective Products: From Electronics to Pharmaceuticals

Defective products come in many shapes and forms, affecting various industries. In the realm of electronics, one might encounter faulty wiring in a smartphone leading to overheating or even fires. In the automotive sector, defects can range from malfunctioning airbags to faulty brake systems, posing serious risks to drivers and passengers alike. Pharmaceuticals represent another area where defects can have dire consequences. Incorrect labeling, contamination, or improper dosages can result in severe health issues. Household items like furniture and appliances are not exempt either; a wobbly chair or a gas leak in a stove can cause injuries. Even food products can be defective, with issues like contamination leading to food poisoning or allergic reactions. Awareness of the different types of defective products can help consumers remain vigilant and take appropriate action if harmed.

Legal Framework: Iowa’s Approach to Product Liability

Iowa has its own set of laws governing product liability, which are designed to protect consumers from unsafe products. Unlike some states strictly following federal guidelines, Iowa incorporates both state and common law principles. One unique aspect is the “Iowa Comparative Fault Act,” which allows for a more nuanced approach in determining fault. In this system, both the plaintiff and the defendant’s actions are examined to decide the percentage of fault each party holds. Another feature is the statute of limitations, which generally gives consumers two years from the date of injury to file a claim. However, there are exceptions, especially if the defect is discovered later. Overall, Iowa’s legal framework aims to balance the interests of consumers and manufacturers, ensuring a fair process for all parties involved.

Common Defenses Manufacturers Use and How to Counter Them

Manufacturers often employ a variety of defenses when facing a product liability claim. One common argument is the consumer misused the product, leading to the injury. Another frequent defense is the product was altered or modified after it left the manufacturer’s control, absolving them of responsibility. Manufacturers might also claim the consumer was fully aware of the risks but chose to use the product anyway. To counter these defenses, it’s important to gather solid evidence. Documentation like instruction manuals, photographs, or even video footage can help prove the product was used as intended. Witness testimonies can also be valuable in refuting claims of misuse or modification.

Compensation: What Victims Can Expect to Recover

In a successful product liability case in Iowa, victims may be eligible for various types of compensation. Monetary awards often cover medical expenses incurred due to the injury, including hospital bills, medication, and ongoing treatment. Lost wages from time off work can also be recovered. In some instances, victims may receive compensation for pain and suffering, which accounts for the emotional and psychological impact of the injury. In rare cases involving extreme negligence or malice on the part of the manufacturer, punitive damages may be awarded as a form of punishment and deterrence. It’s worth noting Iowa’s Comparative Fault Act could affect the amount of compensation, as it considers the degree of fault for both the plaintiff and defendant. Overall, compensation aims to make victims whole and hold manufacturers accountable.

Steps to Take Immediately After Discovering a Defective Product

Upon discovering a defective product, immediate action can make a significant difference in resolving the issue and ensuring safety. First, it’s advisable to stop using the product to prevent further harm. Documenting the defect is also important; taking photographs or videos can serve as valuable evidence later on. If possible, keep all packaging, instruction manuals, and receipts, as these can help establish where and when the product was purchased. Reporting the defect to the manufacturer or retailer is another key step; it not only alerts them to a potential issue but also creates a record of the complaint. Consumers should also consider alerting relevant regulatory agencies, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, especially if the defect poses a broader public safety concern. Taking these steps can help lay the groundwork for any future legal action and ensure consumer safety.

Empowering Consumers Through Legal Action

Product Liability

Before taking legal action, it’s crucial for consumers to understand their rights and the intricacies of the law. When someone is hurt while shopping, for instance, they may not be aware of the protections in place or the steps to take to ensure their case is heard. It’s not just about seeking justice; it’s about being informed and prepared. The spectrum of personal injury law covers various scenarios, from in-store accidents to defective products, each with its own legal nuances. If a consumer’s initial injury claim is denied in court, they need to know the options available, including how to appeal a denied claim. Understanding the potential injury claim damages and how they are calculated can also significantly impact the approach and expectations of a legal case. This knowledge equips consumers with the power to navigate the legal system effectively.

Taking legal action in the face of a defective product serves multiple purposes. It not only provides a pathway for victims to seek compensation but also holds manufacturers accountable for their actions. By pursuing a product liability claim, consumers contribute to a culture of responsibility and safety, encouraging companies to be more vigilant in their design and manufacturing processes. Legal action can also lead to recalls or modifications, preventing further harm to other consumers. In Iowa, the legal framework for product liability is designed to balance the needs of consumers and manufacturers, offering a fair and just system for resolving disputes. Through understanding their rights and the elements needed for a successful claim, consumers become empowered to take action when harmed by a defective product.

If you have been dealing with a product liability claim, contact or call us at 515-444-4000 as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Providing Unmatched EXPERIENCE On Your Case When you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been treated unfairly or you’re in the middle of a legal disagreement, it can be difficult to know what your rights are and how to proceed.

  • The attorneys at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland, & Cooling help me understand and keep me up-to-date on everything with my case this law firm is top-notch if you need a law firm to fight for you this one is the best in the state. I thank the partners at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland, Cooling for having such talented lawyers on their team, and their hard work and dedication to my case

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  • I was in a bad situation after a work injury and wasn’t sure if my employer was trying to do things that weren’t legal in regard to my medical care and returning to work too soon. A friend of mine put me in contact with Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling. They were extremely helpful and very quick to contact me, ask and answer questions, and help me with my case. I appreciate all they do and for taking me seriously!

  • I was recently in a car accident which was a traumatizing experience. However, I got in contact with Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling and never looked back. Everyone was friendly and they reassured me things would work out. They turned a stressful experience to nothing at all. I would recommend to others in the area

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