Product Liability and the Product Life Cycle
Working closely with a product liability law partner helps you to manage the risks associated with consumer demands and claims against your business. This is true whether you are introducing a new product to the market or managing distribution for a product with a well-established market presence.
The product life cycle begins during the research and development phase – before you have a physical product. It continues through to the moment you introduce the product to the market and ends only after the last product is thrown away by its last user. At every step in the product life cycle, a working relationship with an experienced product liability attorney can add value to your operations by reducing the risks posed by potential consumer lawsuits.
In the research and development (R&D) phase of the product life cycle, business owners conceptualize the product, build proto-types and begin the first market trials. When it comes to mounting a solid defense against product liability claims, the old adage applies an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It is during the development phase when the most effective plan to prevent lawsuits can be put into place.
During this early phase the involvement of a law firm with experience in product liability can help to deliver the following results:
- Drafting and reviewing any required waivers to be signed by market trial participants during the R&D phase
- Determining the language and symbols on labels and instructions given to users once the product hits the market
- Overlooking the roll out plans to ensure that all planned manufacturers, distributors, testers and other third parties in the liability chain share in the risk of receiving product liability claims brought by the products future consumers
Once your product is ready to hit the market, it will be time to solidify the relationships with the manufacturers, distributors, testers and retailers that you will license as members of your product’s supply chain. There are many legal considerations during this phase of the product life cycle including:
- Drafting and reviewing agreements with others in the product’s liability chain
- Vetting advertising and marketing materials and messages to prevent legal issues related to promises made or implied about the product
- Choosing the right product liability insurance
The growth phase of the product life cycle is arguably the most exciting. Your product has been accepted by the market and now is expanding into new geographic territories and markets. As you enter into the growth phase you encounter different challenges to your success, including those of a legal nature. Having had legal counsel involved with your business up to this point has allowed you to grow and expand your market without succumbing to the risks associated with bringing a new product to the market. Now that you are growing the new legal challenges you face may include:
- Redrafting your agreements, labels and warnings for new legal jurisdictions and foreign languages
- Adapting your product to new conditions in the markets you are expanding into and making corresponding changes to the content in the documents you have created to date
- Making upgrades to the product based on user feedback and making corresponding changes to the content in the documents you have created to date
- Hiring new distributors and drafting documents to govern your relationship with them
As you enter into the growth phase you encounter different challenges to your success, including those of a legal nature.
Your product reaches maturity in the product life cycle when consumers are familiar with it as a concept and the market is already fairly saturated with the product. The product itself will have gone through various stages of development and the latest version of it will have taken into consideration the comments of many users. At this time, the adoption rate (the rate of consumers buying and using the product for the first time) will have begun to slow down. In this stage there are new legal concerns that arise, these may be:
- The financial success of your business and the widespread usage of your product makes your company a target for spurious product liability claims
- The number of users you have in the market may make it possible for consumer protection law firms to lead class action lawsuits against your business
- The shear number of users of your product makes potential lawsuits more likely and, if they are successful, you are likely to be sued for more money
Now your product is no longer a novelty nor a “must-have” product. Perhaps you have (or a competitor has) come out with a new product that makes this one obsolete. Either way, there are now fewer new users everyday and those with the old product have either stopped using it regularly or have disposed of it. During this declining phase in the life cycle of your product there are still legal concerns to take into account.
These new legal concerns may extend to the following issues:
- Old products being used while broken or misused in ways that make them more likely to cause injury, damage or death to consumers
- Products in the secondary market being sold as used without the disclaimers and warnings in the original packaging
- Products being sold or given away to consumers in jurisdictions for which no legal documents have been created
South Florida Law
South Florida Law represents manufacturers of a broad range of products throughout the United States in state, federal and multidistrict litigation.
We have substantial experience handling defense claims for insurance carriers. Their insured’s and self-insured companies involving diverse lines of products. We have backgrounds in the defense of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and all parties named in product liability cases.
We achieve desirable results by working together with our clients to develop proactive measures to counter the risk of product liability claims. In cases where claims are brought against our clients we offer cost-effective defense strategies, consulting with engineers to develop solid defenses, retaining respected experts to support our case and aggressively deposing opponents’ experts.
If you or your company has been accused of causing injury or death to consumers then contact South Florida Law today via our contact form or by calling (954) 900-8885.