Product liability cases are often highly technical and can require expert testimony to help make your case in court. Which type of expert is chosen and whether expert testimony is required depends on the test used.
Under California law, there are two tests that can apply to products liability cases:
- Consumer expectations. Under this test, the product is defective if it fails to perform as an ordinary consumer would expect. This test does not often require expert testimony.
- Risk/utility. This test requires the balancing of the risk of a product with its utility to consumers and does call for expert testimony.
Because expert testimony can be such a large part of a product liability case, it is important to understand the impact of both the types of experts as well as the best way to select and use them.
Types of Experts
Per California statutes, an expert is someone who has special training, skill, or knowledge on a specific subject. In exchange for their testimony, these witnesses receive reasonable compensation equal to their hourly or daily rates.
These experts can come from a wide range of professions. In the context of a product liability claim, experts called to testify could include:
- Medical professionals
- Manufacturing experts
- Industry-specific experts, such as human factors.
The information provided by these individuals is valuable and can impact how parties view liability and defects.
Utilizing Experts Wisely
Finding and questioning expert witnesses requires legal acumen. Like any other type of witness, experts may have biases, credibility issues, and unique insights that influence how much weight their testimony carries.
Because oppositional strategies can include calling out flaws in an expert’s experience or opinion, or challenging the individual’s character, it is important to find witnesses that can support your argument without giving the defense any opportunity to contradict it. It is also important if using multiple experts to ensure the experts complement each other. Inconsistency between experts can give opposing counsel an opening to challenge the case.
One Piece of a Larger Puzzle
Witness testimony is indeed a crucial aspect of product liability claims and defenses, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. If your business faces accusations of designing, making, or selling a defective product there are many facets to consider when mounting a defense.
Disputing liability, introducing evidence of misuse, or identifying other negligent parties can all be ways of defending against product liability claims.
The exact approach you take if someone is suing you for a defective product will depend on the precise details of your case.
A business facing allegations of being responsible for damages caused by a dangerous product would be wise to consider all strategies to help their case – including leveraging testimony from the experts that can help you build the strongest case and working with attorneys who have established relationships with these professionals.