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Who Can You Sue in a Product Liability Case?

Every day hundreds or even thousands of new products hit the market all around the world, and it’s easy to imagine that not all of them have undergone the rigorous design, testing, and revisions necessary to ensure they can not only last, but be counted upon not to accidentally cause an injury. Design flaws are an unfortunate part of life, and that’s why we often see so many product recalls issued to try and resolve these problems before they can cause injury. But what happens when you are injured by a defective product that isn’t recalled?

The good news is you have legal recourse to sue for damages, but who can you sue for them? The answer lies in the “chain of distribution” or the string of different parties who are responsible for not only creating a product, but getting it into your hands. Let’s take a closer look at how each of them can be held liable.

Product Designer

A product doesn’t just come from nowhere—it has to be created in the mind before it can be made into a physical object. While some designs are truly revolutionary and many make life better for everyone, there are some designs which may perform an intended task but still place their operator at risk due to flaws. Whether or not these flaws are obvious, a poorly-designed product that has a high chance of failure and injury in its inherent design could mean the designer is held responsible for the injuries their product causes. However, this is generally not an easy party to sue—often times a product’s design is sound and safe to use when operated correctly, and odds are the defect probably occurred because of someone else later down the line.


The manufacturer is the party who takes raw materials necessary and assembles them into the final product. This is where much of the liability can be found: a company that deliberately chooses to use poor-quality materials that have a high chance of failing, or a company that changes manufacturing processes in a way that jeopardizes a product’s integrity could both be considered at fault for a defective product failing. Manufacturers often want to try to mass-produce products in a manner that’s inexpensive and quick as possible, and that often means that they are always at least partly responsible for a defective product.


Distributors are companies whose job it is to bring products from their manufacturers to the retailers where they will be sold to you the consumer. Distributors generally have a pretty simple job, but they could have a share in the liability for a defective product rather easily. For example, if a product experiences harmful chemical changes when left exposed to high temperatures, a distributor who leaves a bunch of those products in the back of a tractor trailer for hours at a time during the hottest days of the year could be held responsible. Their failure to take adequate steps to prevent this chemical change from occurring (such as putting the products in a climate-controlled trailer) could be considered negligence and thus make them responsible.

There’s something important to consider with distributors: they don’t always exist. If a product is delivered directly from manufacturer to retailer without this middleman step, then there are no distributors to hold liable.


A retailer is the last step between a product’s creation and it getting into your hands as a consumer. Retailers have a duty to ensure that the products they sell are safe for use and to pull any defective or recalled products off of their shelves. While a retailer generally isn’t going to be held responsible for a simple fluke accident, they can be sued if they fail to pull a recalled product from their shelves, potentially putting consumers in harm’s way by selling it to them.

If you have been injured by a defective product, speak with a skilled Martin County injury lawyer as soon as possible! Contact Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC today by dialing (866) 675-4427!