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Defective Design

Even the smallest and simplest household items can cause serious injuries if they are designed, manufactured, marketed, or distributed in error. Cases of products with design defects range from power tools to cleaning products to toys or even furniture.

A product is considered defective when it is designed in a way such that it can never be safely used by consumers. Fortunately, Federal and Iowa law compensates individuals who are harmed due to a product’s defective design. Under Iowa Code §614.1(2), anyone wanting to file a product liability lawsuit must do so within two years of sustaining an injury from the defective product.

Iowa Defective Design Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injuries and/or property damage in the state of Iowa by a defective product, you may have legal rights. You need a dedicated and knowledgeable defective product lawyer with extensive experience to fight against the corporations to seek the compensation you are entitled to. Turn to McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. for skilled legal representation today.

McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. serves clients in the greater Des Moines area including Polk County, Dallas County, Warren County, Madison County, Jasper County and Marion County. Contact us today for a free consultation at (515) 279-9700.

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When Is A Product Considered Defective?

A product is considered defectively designed when its proper intended use is still dangerous to property, the user, or other individuals. Therefore, unlike manufacturing defects, a design defect conforms with a manufacturer’s intended design specifications but is nevertheless dangerous. When harm results to users or other individuals due to a product’s defective design, various product liability theories for personal injury or even wrongful death may be pursued by the claimant. For a claimant to succeed on a defective design, they must prove the following:

  • The product was defective at the time it left the defendant’s control. This means that the product was defective when it was shipped from the manufacturer, rather than damaged in transit, etc.
  • A reasonable alternative design existed which was safer. This means that the manufacturer could have practically adopted a safer alternative method of design through the use of materials, development, etc., which would have mitigated injury.
  • The failure to adhere to the safer alternative design rendered the product unsafe. This means that the manufacturer’s failure to choose the alternative method of design, sometimes for cost reasons, availability of a product, etc., resulted in an injury that otherwise would have been reduced or prevented injury.

While all aspects of defective design litigation can be litigious in the sense that they involve many defendants and require expert witnesses and a thorough understanding of the product’s design, the most contested prong of liability is often whether a practical alternative design exists. In evaluating whether a safer design existed, some of the considerations Iowa courts look at include the following.

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Magnitude and Probability of the Foreseeable Risks

When assessing when a design is defective, courts will consider the degree and likeliness of harm that could have foreseeably resulted from the product’s design. Take, for example, the news which swirled regarding the numerous deaths of toddlers ingesting tide pods not too long ago. In this instance, courts would look at the magnitude of harm that could result from ingestion of tide pods, i.e., death, as well as the foreseeability of that risk, such as how likely it was that a toddler would reasonably have access to these items. A careful analysis of these factors can be time and cost extensive in product liability claims as numerous experts, including engineers, doctors, sociologists, etc., are needed to establish the requisite arguments.

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The Risk-Utility Test

To help establish the magnitude and foreseeability of risks, Iowa and several other jurisdictions follow the Risk-Utility Test. Under this test, a cost-benefit analysis is conducted by assessing a product’s overall risk as compared to its utility. Under this standard, products are defectively designed when a reasonable person would determine that the probability and seriousness of the harm of that product would outweigh the burden or costs of taking precautions. For example, a butter knife may be defectively designed and thereby cause injury, but most individuals would not consider this level of harm before using the product.

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Instructions And Warnings Accompanying The Product

Courts will next consider when the design of the instructions and warning accompanying the product further attributed to its’ dangerous design. In the Tide Pod scenario, a common example would be whether the packaging contained clear warnings about keeping the items away from children. Many warnings and instructions are so well-hidden on products that the court will need to consider whether more direct or visible warnings on a product would have helped to convey the severity of the warning/language that a typical user would understand.

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Consumer Expectations About Product Usage

Products can also be defectively designed if they are designed in a way that is inherently dangerous when used in a conventionally acceptable manner. For example, if a vacuum’s handle heated up to the point of injuring the user, the consumer expectations test would conclude that the person using the vacuum without wearing gloves was using it in a conventionally acceptable manner and therefore could not have foreseen the harm since no one assumes they need to vacuum in gloves to stay safe.

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Whether The Risk Presented Is Open And Obvious

In design defect cases, the court will look at whether the injury was obvious or whether it was concealed due to design defects. For example, most people understand that using a chainsaw is more dangerous than using a rake. When someone touches a rake with a bare hand, they expect to be safe. Where they touch an operating chainsaw, however, with an open hand, courts would likely conclude that the risk of doing so is obvious to the general user.

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Other Considerations In Design Defect Cases

In addition to the above, courts will also consider the overall advantages and disadvantages of the product, any need for the product’s maintenance and utility, the range of consumer choice among products, and how the product’s design compares with other competing products in actual use.

Given all these factors, design defect cases require a great deal of expertise, time, and attention. Claimants who have suffered injury or death because of a product’s defective design may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney immediately.

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Additional Resources

US Consumer Product Safety Commission –  Click the link to visit the official website for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Access the site to view home safety checklists for indoors, outdoors, power tools and helmets.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Food – Click the link to access the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) website and view information regarding food safety. You can view which foods have been previously classified as hazardous.

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West Des Moines Defective Design Attorney | Polk County, Iowa

If you were injured by a poorly designed product, you need a skilled defective product lawyer who can guide you through the process and do everything possible to secure the compensation you need. Product liability cases can be complex and therefore require skilled advocacy. You are more likely to be successful if you have an experienced personal injury fighting on your behalf. This is where McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. can be your best resource.

McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. has over 37 years of experience handling defective design cases. Contact us at (515) 279-9700 as soon as possible to schedule an initial consultation.

McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. is based in the West Des Moines area, but we accept clients throughout Polk County and Dallas County including Ankeny, Polk City, Altoona, Johnston, Pleasant Hill, Windsor Heights, Van Meter, Minburn, Waukee, Redfield, Adel, Dallas Center, and Perry.

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