The Chain of Distribution in Product Liability Cases

By Peter DePaolis

Consumers trust that the products they use everyday are safe. Many consumers believe that government approval means the products in our homes are safe, but is not always so. More often than you think, unsafe and defective products seriously injure American consumers. If it happens to you, a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover compensation for your injuries.

A product liability lawsuit presents a myriad of facts, research and potentially liable parties. Such a lawsuit requires identifying any party involved with the product’s design, manufacture and distribution. Efforts to follow the chain of distribution often result in hitting a wall of big corporations and insurance companies.

Who is Liable in a Product Liability Action?

Depending on the product, identifying all the potentially liable parties may be difficult. It is important to find all the defendants to increase your chances of getting full recovery for your injuries. You want to find all the parties in the chain of distribution, which is the path that the product takes from design to manufacture to distribution to the consumer.

The designer starts the chain of distribution. It can be a large global company, or it can be a local small business. If the defective product is a component part of a larger product, include the designer of the defective part and the designer of the larger product in the lawsuit. For example, if you suffered injuries from a defective laptop battery, name the battery designer and the laptop designer as defendants.

Next is the manufacturer of the product or products. The manufacturer may be the same company as the designer, and if the defective product is a component part, be sure to identify the manufacturer of the component part as well as the manufacturer of the larger product.

Next, the retail store that sold you the defective product may face liability as well. You do not have to be the original purchaser to recover from the retailer. If the laptop that injured you belonged to a friend, you can still recover from the store where your friend purchased it.

Between the designer, manufacturer and retailer, there can be a number of parties liable in a product liability case. These “middlemen” include wholesalers, suppliers and distributors. Each play a role in the chain of distribution and could be responsible for the defective product.

If any party in the chain of distribution is a corporation, your Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer can research whether there are any subsidiaries or umbrella companies. If so, these companies can inherit liability for a defective product.

Identifying all the parties in the chain of distribution can be time-consuming but is well worth the effort. Contact a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney if you have suffered injuries from a defective product.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.