Product liability is a legal concept that holds manufacturers accountable for any harm caused by defective products sold to customers. This is based on the principle of “seller beware”. However, it’s not just manufacturers who can be held responsible. Any seller who is involved in the product’s design, testing, manufacturing, packaging, or labeling can also be held liable. It is important to note that product liability laws vary by jurisdiction, so manufacturers and sellers must understand their legal obligations in each specific location.
If a seller changes the product, makes a warranty that they don’t fulfill, or doesn’t take reasonable care when putting together, checking, or maintaining the product, they can be held responsible. Moreover, if the manufacturer is unknown or unable to receive legal notice, the seller who sold the product is still responsible for any harm caused.
A recent incident occurred where a shopkeeper was held responsible for negligently displaying caustic soda bottles on a shelf that was easily accessible to young children. Despite the warning label on the bottle, which clearly warned of the potential danger of severe burns and cautioned that it should be kept out of reach of children, the shopkeeper failed to take adequate precautions. As a result, a two-and-a-half-year-old child picked up the bottle, removed the defective child-resistant cap, and ingested some of the contents, causing serious injuries. In separate incident, a defective bottle injured a mother’s hand as she helped her son drink soda. The shopkeeper who sold a product was unaware of the licensing requirement and did not read the instructions that stated the package must be kept out of reach of children. The shopkeeper had a duty of care towards the claimant and failed to take reasonable precautions, thus breaching his duty of care.
*Uaatjo Kaurimuje is a consumer protection advocate. She has more than 10 years of experience in consumer protection. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not represent any employer, organisation, committee, or other legislative groups.