Texas products liability: Galveston automobile air-bag lawsuit

In the U.S., we expect the goods that enter the stream of commerce and end up being purchased and used by consumers to be reasonably safe when used for the products' intended purposes. Broadly, the area of law called "products liability" governs the potential legal responsibility of an item's manufacturer, distributor or seller to an end user for personal injuries received when using the product.

Air-bag product liability filing in Texas state court

The Southeast Texas Record reports on a new product liability lawsuit filing in the 212th Judicial District Court in Galveston against Toyota for an allegedly defective air bag that failed to deploy in a collision. J. William Soderman alleges that he was a passenger in his own car in June 2012 when a negligent Jamaica Beach woman drove her vehicle into Soderman's and caused him to receive a brain injury.

In addition to suing that driver for negligence in the car accident, the plaintiff accuses Toyota of defective vehicular design and defective manufacturing that prevented the air bag from going off to protect him in the impact. Reportedly, Soderman says that the air bag system erroneously did not indicate that anyone was in the passenger seat, creating an "unreasonably dangerous" vehicle.

According to the article, the plaintiff requests a jury trial and asks for at least $1 million in legal damages.

Texas products liability law

Texas statute defines a "products liability action" as a lawsuit against a "manufacturer or seller" for damages for death, physical injury or property damage caused by a "defective product." The legal basis of a Texas product liability suit may be any applicable theory, including:

  • Strict tort liability.
  • Strict products liability.
  • Negligence.
  • Misrepresentation.
  • Breach of express warranty.
  • Breach of implied warranty.

Broadly, products liability lawsuits are normally based on defective design or defective manufacturing, or on failure to reasonably warn consumers of inherent dangers. Some interesting aspects of Texas products liability law:

  • Certain innocent sellers are indemnified by manufacturers, meaning the manufacturers must absorb all the liability.
  • Some items are considered "inherently unsafe" as a matter of common knowledge, potentially removing commercial liability for injuries from those products.
  • If a defendant violated a federal or state law or regulation that imposes certain safety standards on the manufacture or design of an item, that violation may be legal evidence of negligence, called "negligence per se."
  • Negligent use, misuse or alteration of the product on the part of the injured consumer may be relevant to ultimate liability.

Legal guidance for a complex area of Texas law

This is only a brief introduction to an extremely complicated area of Texas law. Anyone involved in a harmful incident caused by a product or good should seek legal counsel from an experienced products liability attorney for advice about the particular situation. A plaintiff needs to understand who the potentially responsible parties may be and which legal theories of product liability may come into play.

On the other hand, a commercial defendant that was involved in design, manufacture, distribution or sale of an item that caused injury or damage should have a legal advocate to investigate the circumstances and mount a vigorous defense.