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Who Is Liable in a Defective Product Claim?

May 22, 2024

Product defects are alarmingly common; making it increasingly beneficial to understand what party (or parties) may be liable in a defective product claim. Manufacturers routinely issue recalls for all types of products, though they often don’t do so until it is already too late. 

If you have been injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to financial compensation. This includes financial compensation for your medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other injury-related losses. But, to recover the financial compensation you deserve, you first need to figure out what company is liable for your injuries. 

5 Companies that Can Be Held Liable for Defective Products in Illinois 

There are several possibilities. This is due to the nature of Illinois’s product liability law, which allows victims to file claims against any companies that are involved in a defective product’s chain of distribution. For example, the companies that can be held liable in a defective product claim will often include:

1. The Product’s Designer

Companies that design defective products can be held liable when their products cause serious injuries. Defects resulting from poor design are referred to as “design defects,” and they can range from issues with how a product is intended to be put together to issues with the materials specified for a product’s construction. 

2. The Product’s Manufacturer

While many companies design and manufacture their products, there are also companies that strictly manufacture products that have been designed by other businesses. Both types of product manufacturers can be held liable in defective product claims under Illinois law. Along with design defects, “manufacturing defects” commonly lead to injuries as well, and they can result from issues with a specific product’s construction or from assembly line issues that create an entire batch of defective products. 

3. A Distributor or Wholesaler

Since distributors and wholesalers are also in the chain of distribution, they can also be held liable in defective product claims under Illinois law. While special rules protect distributors and wholesalers in certain cases, these protections only apply when a product’s manufacturer can be held fully liable for a plaintiff’s losses. 

4. A Retailer

Companies that sell defective products at retail can also be held liable in defective product claims. This applies to both brick-and-mortar and online retailers—from automotive dealerships and big box stores to specialty retailers that sell consumer products in person and through their websites. The same special rules that apply to distributors and wholesalers also apply to retailers.

5. A Marketing Agency

Marketing agencies can be held liable in defective product claims in some cases. There is a third type of defect, called “failure to warn,” that comes into play when a product’s packaging fails to adequately disclose a safety risk that isn’t readily apparent from a product’s design or intended use. While product designers and manufacturers will typically design their products’ packaging materials as well, marketing agencies can be held liable if they play a role in failing to provide an adequate warning to consumers (i.e., if they omit important safety information provided by a manufacturer).

Which Company Should You Sue for a Product Defect? 

With all of these different possibilities, which company should you sue for a product defect? In most cases, it will make sense to file a claim against the product’s designer or manufacturer. These companies typically have substantial insurance policies that cover product liability claims, and the special rules that protect distributors, wholesalers, and retailers in some cases do not protect designers or manufacturers. 

However, suing the product’s designer or manufacturer isn’t always the best approach. For example, consider a scenario in which a defective product is manufactured by a small company and sold through a major online retailer. In this scenario, the manufacturer may not have adequate resources (or insurance) to pay full compensation, but the online retailer might. 

Ultimately, deciding which company (or companies) to sue requires a thorough investigation and a careful assessment of all relevant facts and circumstances. This is also true when it comes to determining how much you should seek in your defective product claim. Making informed decisions is critical, and this starts with hiring an experienced defective product lawyer to represent you. 

Talk to a Chicago Defective Product Lawyer for FREE

If you were hurt by a defective product, you need to know your rights. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and more. The Chicago defective product liability lawyers at Coplan + Crane have built a reputation for excellence in Illinois. We understand the complexities of these difficult cases and we know how to build strong cases on behalf of our clients.

Don’t face your injuries alone. Contact the experienced attorneys at Coplan + Crane today online or at 708-358-8080 for a FREE case evaluation. We proudly welcome clients from across Illinois, including Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and other areas.