Wooden Gavel

Can a Retailer be Held Liable for Defective Products?

Michael W. Patrick April 8, 2019

Today, consumers purchase products designed, manufactured, and sold from all around the world. From the latest electronics to must-have toys, pharmaceuticals to automobiles, companies are striving to keep up with demand by creating products that are a) inexpensive and b) quick to get to market for profit. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in sacrificing the quality and safety of the product — all for the sake of increasing the company’s bottom line.

Every day, there are defective products sold to consumers throughout our country, including right here in North Carolina. Usually, the unlucky people who have bought these defective products don’t realize they’re dealing with a faulty, potentially dangerous, product until it’s too late.

Common Injuries Caused By Faulty Products

Defective products have the potential to cause serious injuries that could be debilitating or even deadly, including:

  • Burns

  • Disfigurement

  • Loss of limbs

  • Choking injuries

  • Electric shock

  • Head/bodily injuries

  • Broken bones

  • Organ failure

When a faulty product makes its way into the hands of an unsuspecting consumer, the responsible party should be held accountable. Those injured by a defective product could have the right to file a product liability claim to be compensated not only for the cost of the product, but also for their medical bills, attorney fees, general pain and suffering, and more. However, North Carolina laws dictate that a violation of that party’s legal responsibilities must be proven for a victim to be awarded damages.

Holding Retailers Liable for Defective Products

Can a retailer be held liable for defective products?

Well, that depends. There are many different types of products in the world, and we use a countless number of products on a daily basis. Due to the nature of our ever-expanding, global economy, it can be difficult to track down the origin of a defective product. The manufacturer could be a small company in a remote country that no one has ever heard of. Particularly when a product gets sold to a retailer in the United States, it can be even more difficult to locate the product’s initial manufacturer. The victim's only option might be to go after the retailer.

Other Reasons to Go After the Retailer

When a person has been injured in an accident that was caused by a product defect, they have a decision on which court is the best one to file suit in. In some cases they may want to try their case in federal court. In other cases, it may be better to file their case in state court.

The makers of most vehicles and products will be in a different state from where the plaintiff resides. For example, a faulty tire that was recently installed on your vehicle may have caused you to lose control on the road, which caused an accident. If the company that manufactured the product was out of state, they can decide to put the case in federal court regardless of whether you prefer the state court. If there is a local retailer, you could consider suing the local retailer as well as the manufacturer under products warranty theory when there are reasons to prefer state court.

Proving Product Liability

Proving causation (that is, proving that another party is at fault) can be complicated. In North Carolina, a victim suffering from injuries sustained by a defective product has a couple of different options when it comes to filing a product liability claim.


Filing a negligence claim requires proving that the defendant should have known about the defect and responsibly warned of any dangers associated with the product to prevent harm to the consumer. This type of claim is less common because of the difficulty in pinpointing fault not only on the part of the retailer but also every other piece of the commerce chain.


A more common type of claim for recovering damages from a defective product injury is breach of warranty. This method does not require the defendant to have specific knowledge of the defect to be held liable for the safety of the consumer. Rather, it obliges a retailer to honor any promises or guarantees made to a consumer — which typically includes an understanding that the purchased product is safe to use without risk of harm (unless a proper warning label suggests otherwise). So if a product is being used for its ordinary purpose but injures the user due to a defect, this is an example of a breach of warranty.

Only a seasoned attorney will know the best way to handle your specific case. If you have been injured by a faulty product, you deserve an advocate in your corner who is passionate about protecting consumers’ rights and prepared to tackle even the toughest cases.

Chapel Hill Product Liability Lawyer

For over 30 years, I have served the legal communities of Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham, and surrounding areas of central North Carolina. If you have questions about your consumer rights, I invite you to schedule a free consultation. The Law Office of Michael W. Patrick has helped clients handle numerous cases involving:

  • Defective medical devices, including hip implants and medications

  • Chemicals with insufficient warning labels

  • Defective welds on a trailer

  • Faulty seals on gas tanks

  • Defective wiring in appliances

  • Defective seat belts, tires, and airbags in a car

When you choose to work with me, you gain a dedicated legal guide and personal advocate committed to helping you navigate the entirety of your case. Allow me to help you understand your options and fight for your best possible outcome.