Frequently Asked Questions About Product Liability in Indiana
What is product liability?
Product liability involves the liability of a manufacturer or seller of a product for physical harm caused by a product the manufacturer or seller put into the stream of commerce in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to users or consumers. Ind. Code § 34-20-2-1.
What law applies to Indiana Product Liability Cases?
The Indiana Products Liability Act (IPLA) applies to all cases (1) brought by a user or consumer (2) against a manufacturer or seller (3) for physical harm caused by a product, regardless of the legal theory upon which the action is brought. Ind. Code § 34-20-1-1.
What do I have to prove in a product liability lawsuit in Indiana?
Plaintiffs in product liability cases must prove that the product “was placed into the stream of commerce in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user and that plaintiff’s injuries were caused by this dangerous product.” Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co. v. Johnson, 109 N.E.3d 953, 956 (Ind. 2018). Under the IPLA, any person who sells, leases, or otherwise puts a defective product into the stream of commerce can be held liable if (1) the user or consumer is in the class of persons a seller should reasonably foresee as being subject to harm caused by the defective condition, (2) the seller is engaged in the business of selling the product, and (3) the product is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial alteration in the condition in which the product was sold. Ind. Code § 34-20-2-1.
Under the IPLA, a product can be defective if it is defectively designed, if it has a manufacturing flaw, or if it lacks adequate warnings or instructions. Brewer v. PACCAR, Inc., 124 N.E.3d 616, 621 (Ind. 2019). Products considered defective are those that, at the time they are conveyed by a seller, are in a condition (1) not contemplated by reasonable persons among those considered expected users or consumers of the product, and (2) that will be unreasonably dangerous to expected users or consumers when used in reasonably expectable ways of handling or consumption. Ind. Code § 34-20-4-1. Products are also considered defective when sellers fail to (1) properly package or label a product to give reasonable warnings about dangers or (2) give reasonably complete instructions on proper use of the product. Ind. Code § 34-20-4-2.
A product is not defective if an injury occurs due to handling, preparation for use, or consumption that is not reasonably expectable. Ind. Code § 34-20-4-3. A product that is incapable of being made safe for its reasonably expectable use is not defective so long as it is manufactured, sold, handled and packaged properly. Ind. Code § 34-20-4-4.
Strict liability claims under the IPLA are limited to manufacturing defect claims. Ind. Code § 34-20-2-3; Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co., 109 N.E.3d at 957. Claims for design defects or inadequate warnings or instructions are determined under negligence principles. Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co., 109 N.E.3d at 956-957. Plaintiffs pursuing claims based upon design defects or inadequate warnings or instructions must prove the manufacturer or seller (1) owed a duty to the plaintiff, (2) breached that duty by failing to exercise reasonable care in designing the product or in providing warnings or instructions, and (3) proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Brewer, 124 N.E.3d at 621; Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co., 109 N.E.3d at 956.
What are the defenses to a product liability lawsuit in Indiana?
The IPLA provides three non-exclusive defenses to product liability actions: incurred risk, misuse of the product, and modification or alteration of a product. Ind. Code § 34-20-6-3 to 6-5; Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co., 109 N.E.3d at 956. Incurred risk applies when a user or consumer (1) knew of the defect, (2) was aware of the danger, and (3) proceeded to use the product and was injured as a result. Ind. Code § 34-20-6-3. The defense of misuse applies when injury is caused by misuse of the product by the plaintiff or any other person that could not have been reasonably expected by the seller. Ind. Code § 34-20-6-4. The defense of modification or alteration applies when injury is proximately caused by a modification or alteration of a product by any person after the product’s delivery to the initial user or consumer if the modification or alteration was not reasonably expectable. Ind. Code § 34-20-6-5. Incurred risk, misuse of the product, and modification or alteration of a product have been determined to be complete defenses under the IPLA. Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co., 109 N.E.3d at 958-959.
The IPLA also provides for a “state-of-the-art defense” with a rebuttable presumption a product was not defective, and a manufacturer or seller was not negligent, if, before the sale by the manufacturer, the product (1) was in conformity with generally recognized state of the art regarding safety of the product and (2) complied with applicable codes, standards, regulations or specifications set forth by the United States or Indiana. Ind. Code § 34-20-5-1.
What is the statute of limitations in Indiana product liability cases?
The IPLA has a 2-year statute of limitations and a 10-year statute of repose, which applies regardless of minority or legal disability. Ind. Code § 34-20-3-1. Under the IPLA, “a product liability action must be commenced: (1) within two (2) years after the cause of action accrues; or (2) within ten (10) years after the delivery of the product to the initial user or consumer.” Id. However, “if the cause of action accrues at least eight (8) years but less than ten (10) years after that initial delivery, the action may be commenced at any time within two (2) years after the cause of action accrues.” Id. Other time limitations may be applicable as well.
How can I get help in my Indiana product liability lawsuit or claim?
Barsumian Armiger Injury Lawyers represents clients injured as a result of unreasonably dangerous defective products. If you or a loved one have suffered injury as a result of a product, call us for a free consultation at (844) 268-7775 or tell us what happened by submitting information about your case online at www.barsumianlaw.com. We offer free consultations and charge no attorney’s fee unless you recover money in your case.