Most injury-related claims, like car accident cases and slip and fall claims, are based in negligence. That means the injured person must show that the defendant:
- Had a duty of care
- Failed in that duty
- Through that failure, caused the plaintiff’s injuries
But, for some types of claims, Georgia applies strict liability. When strict liability applies, the plaintiff is relieved of that burden, and doesn’t have to show that the defendant was negligent.
Strict Liability in Georgia Product Liability Cases
The most common type of strict liability injury case in Georgia is product liability. Product liability cases arise when someone is injured by a defective product. Or, in some cases, because the product didn’t come with adequate instructions or warnings. The plaintiff doesn’t have to show that it was the manufacturer’s fault that the product was flawed. They only have to show that the defect was present when the product left the manufacturer’s hands. The manufacturer need not even know that the product is defective to be strictly liable for injury it causes.
The Burden of Proof in a Georgia Strict Liability Case
It sounds like strict liability would make it easier to pursue a claim for damages, and in some ways it is. But, there are still hurdles. The plaintiff in a strict liability case doesn’t have to prove the defendant was negligent. But, they still have to prove that the product was defective when it left the manufacturer’s hands. And, they have to prove that the defect caused the injuries.
That makes product liability cases complicated, in that they typically require specialized expert witnesses to establish that the product was defective. And, the plaintiff still has to prove damages. Depending on the circumstances, that may require medical experts, economic experts, and other evidence.
In short, while the plaintiff is relieved of one burden, pursuing a strict liability case like a Georgia product liability claim is challenging in other ways. An experienced Atlanta product liability attorney will know how to conduct the relevant investigation, assemble technical evidence, identify and work with appropriate experts, manage deadlines and other procedural issues, and build a case on your behalf.
Strict Liability Isn’t Sole Liability
Under Georgia’s comparative fault law, an award for damages may be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s fault. For example, if a car accident victim sustains $100,000 in damages but is found to have been 25% responsible for the accident, the award will be reduced by 25%. The injured plaintiff will receive $75,000 in damages rather than the full $100,000, since he or she was responsible for the other 25%.
Many states that use this model for injury cases take a different approach to strict liability cases. But last year, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that this apportionment of responsibility applied in strict liability cases, too.
In that case, the plaintiff was injured when the brake failed on his motorcycle. The failure was based on a defect in the front brake master cylinder–a product defect triggering strict liability. But, it turned out that the plaintiff had failed to properly maintain the part. Specifically, he had not changed the brake fluid as instructed in the owners’ manual.
The jury found that the plaintiff was 49% responsible for his own injuries. So, the trial court reduced the award to 51% of the total damages. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld that decision. Moving forward, that creates an added burden for Georgia plaintiffs in strict liability cases.
Strict liability offers consumers added protection from dangerous or defective products. Manufacturers have full control over the product. And, they typically have massive resources in comparison with the defendant. But, the complex technical nature of proving a design flaw can make a product liability case a tough battle. And, the risk associated with a finding that the plaintiff was partly responsible adds complexity. If you’ve been injured by a defective product, talk with an experienced Atlanta product liability attorney as soon as possible.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence, including victims of motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice and more. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.