As the world becomes more interconnected with the introduction of products
that communicated with each other via the Internet, the term “Internet
of Things” has been informally adopted to describe this rapidly-expanding
sector of the world’s social and technological environment. In today’s
post our defective product and personal injury lawyer will provide and
introduction to the evolving field of personal injury law as it relates
to this rapidly expanding technology.
What is the “Internet of Things”?
Broadly speaking, the Internet of Things is composed of electronic devices
that are 1) potentially connected to one another by the Internet, 2) capable
of routinely transmitting data about themselves to another location, and
3) are controllable by another device or by their own internal programming.
By this definition the Internet of Things includes thousands of devices
such as home security monitors, electronic medical records, traffic control
devices, “self-driving” cars and trucks, and even the national
power grid that is essential for all such devices to function properly.
What happens if an Internet of Things device fails?
In the majority of cases, Internet of Things devices have functioned as
intended and malfunctions go unnoticed until a major problem occurs. Unfortunately,
given the fact that many devices are controlled or monitored from a central
location, a failure at one level of organization often leads to a “cascade”
of failures in “upstream” or “downstream” systems.
When such failures occur, and when a failure causes an injury or some
other injury, the manufacturers of these devices may be liable for the
payment of damages to those who suffer a loss that can be directly linked
to a defective product.
In the United States, the courts have recognized three rather broad (and
sometimes overlapping) sets of circumstances under which a defective product
liability lawsuit could be justified: 1) negligence, 2) strict liability,
and 3) breach of a stated or implied warranty. Let’s look at each
of these categories and how they might apply to defective products that
are a part of the Internet of Things.
Broadly defined, negligence by a manufacturer occurs when that manufacturer
fails to recognize that one if its products contains a defect. In the
Internet of Things, a manufacturer of a home security system may use a
software package that fails to automatically notify the local fire department
if a smoke detector senses that a fire has broken out. Regardless of whether
a defect was known at the time the device was created, if it can be shown
that a manufacturer’s product included a defect, the manufacturer
may be held liable for damages due to negligence.
The doctrine of strict liability holds that the manufacturer of a product
is liable for damages caused by its product if it can be demonstrated
that a product’s design or manufacturing process involved the introduction
of a defect and that the manufacturer failed to warn the user of the defect’s
presence and its potential for causing harm.
If a manufacturer markets a product with the promise that its product will
perform in a certain manner, the manufacturer has made a warranty to the
product’s eventual user. Such a warranty can be either explicit,
where it is presented in writing, or implicit (implied). If a device fails
to perform in the manner expected, its manufacturer may have breached
its warranty and thus expose itself to a defective product liability claim.
Why you need a defective product personal injury lawyer
Personal injury due to a defective product has always been a complicated
area of legal practice due to the fact that it is often difficult to determine
the exact reason that a product failed. In some cases, the reason for
a failure can be linked to a faulty design or defective component that
is incorporated into a final product that is assembled from parts supplied
by several manufacturers (such as with an automobile or a home security
system). In other cases, the cause of the injury or loss may not be readily
obvious, and liability must be determined by a court.
If you were injured and you suspect that a defective Internet device may
have led to your injury, you should contact an experienced defective product
and personal injury lawyer to arrange a comprehensive review of the facts
in your case and to explore the legal options that may be available to
you. Since issues such as liability and comparative negligence will vary
from state to state, only a local attorney will be able to render an opinion
on potential liability and possess the knowledge of your state’s
practice and procedure that will determine the success or failure of a
product liability / personal injury lawsuit.