Any actor in the chain of distribution of an allegedly defective product can be liable to an injured person under a strict products liability theory. This includes, manufacturers, designers, distributors and retailers. In California, the standard for proving such a claim is quite low, lower than the standard for proving a negligence claim. Products companies need an attorney experienced in products liability law to represent them if they are sued, and to try and position them in advance of a lawsuit to be prepared to defend themselves. This is done through document retention policies, e-mail policies, testing and other methods.
I have been practicing in this arena since 2001. I regularly represent Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc. in products liability matters involving its bicycles and equipment. I have handled cases on behalf of numerous clients relating to cars, motorcycles, bicycles, bicycle helmets, small tools and heavy equipment. I have represented, dealers, designers, distributors and manufacturers. These cases have involved serious, permanent injuries, and death.
Many companies have insurance which will provide a defense in the event of a products liability claim. One complaint I frequently hear is that when a claim comes in it gets turned over to the insurance company and the next thing these companies hear is that the claim has been settled without any communication from the attorney the insurance company hired. I frequently work with my clients to resolve this issue. This is sometimes done by changing insurance so that the client accepts somewhat more exposure in exchange for more control over its defense. In other instances, I act as the point of contact for the company relative to the insurance company lawyer to ensure that there is adequate communication and the defense is vigorous and effective. I also ensure consistent responses are given across cases, so answers in one case are not used against my client in another.