Comparative Fault in Georgia Products Liability Claims

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare—buying a new product, trusting in the product’s quality and safety from the manufacturer, and then subsequently being severely injured by the product. When these accidents occur, the company who manufactured and produced the product should be held accountable under Georgia product liability law. Sometimes, however, injuries from these accidents are made worse because of the negligence or actions of the owner and purchaser of the product. When this happens, the plaintiff may be unable to receive the full amount of damages from their claim because their actions contributed to their injuries.

In a recent opinion released by the state’s high court, the court considered a product liability case involving apportionment of damages. The plaintiff was seriously injured when the front brake on his motorcycle failed suddenly. Following the accident, he sued the designer and manufacturer of the motorcycle and its distributor, asserting strict product liability claims based on a design defect and negligence. The plaintiff’s wife also sued for loss of consortium.

During the trial, the plaintiffs presented evidence that the brake failure resulted from a design defect that misdirected the flow of brake fluid and eventually caused the brakes to fail. Two months after the plaintiff’s accident, the defendant issued a recall notice about the brake and had notice of the issue for a significant time before the plaintiff’s accident. The plaintiff also admitted that contrary to the instructions provided in the owner’s manual to replace the brake fluid every two years; he never changed the fluid in the eight years he owned the motorcycle. Following the trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs on all claims and apportioned 49% of the fault to the plaintiffs and 51% to the defendants, which reduced their damages. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the lower court erred in reducing their damage awards.

On appeal, the court affirmed the decisions by the Court of Appeals and the trial court and stated that the trial court was correct in reducing the plaintiffs’ damage awards based on their percentage of apportioned fault. The plaintiffs attempted to argue that because they brought a strict liability claim, their damages should be exempt from Georgia law requiring a reduction in damages in proportion to the jury’s assignment of fault. The court disagreed, arguing that the plaintiffs’ responsibility in causing the accident was within the plain reading of Georgia law requiring reductions in damages based on the proportion of each parties’ responsibility.

Under Georgia’s comparative fault law, when a products liability action is brought against another party or parties, and the plaintiff is to some degree responsible for the injury or damages claimed, the jury can determine the percentage of fault of the plaintiff. Following this determination, the judge will reduce the amount of damages that the plaintiff receives in proportion to their percentage of fault. Plaintiffs in Georgia cannot receive any damages if the plaintiff is 50 percent or more responsible for their injury or the damages claimed.

Do You Need a Georgia Products Liability Attorney?

If you or someone you know has recently been injured in a Georgia products liability accident, contact the attorneys at McAleer Law. The dedicated lawyers at our firm have years of experience representing clients in all sorts of personal injury claims and will advocate tirelessly on your behalf to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact us at 404-622-5337 today for a free consultation with a member of our team.

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