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What the New Jersey Product Liability Act Means for You

Here’s a story for you: Andrew purchases a new hair dryer. When he uses the product, it becomes so hot that it catches fire. Andrew suffers serious burns and loses a few of his belongings in the fire. Can he recover damages?

The answer is likely yes, thanks to the New Jersey Product Liability Act. Below, learn more about the NJPLA and what it means for consumers.

What Is the New Jersey Product Liability Act?

The New Jersey Product Liability Act says that you can hold a manufacturer or seller liable if a product:

  • Was designed in a defective manner
  • Failed to contain adequate instructions or warnings
  • Deviated from design specifications, formulae, or performance standards of the manufacturer

Types of Product Liability Claims

electronics engineer troubleshooting defects

Wondering what types of product liability claims you can file in our state? Here are some examples.

Defective Design

Some products are defective from a poor design process. Manufacturing processes have no bearing on this type of claim.

For a defective design claim, you must show that the designer failed to use reasonable care to determine whether the design posed an unreasonable risk of threat or harm. To prove that the product was defective, you must show that:

  • The product’s risks outweighed its usefulness
  • The product could have been designed in a way that minimized or eliminated the risk of harm

Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects happen when a company carelessly builds, assembles, fabricates, or constructs a product. Examples of defective manufacturing processes include:

  • Failing to train the workers who manufactured the product
  • Using shoddy materials or obsolete parts
  • Carelessly overseeing the manufacturing process
  • Not inspecting the product after manufacturing

Failure To Warn or Inadequate Warning Defects

“Failure to warn” simply means that the manufacturer didn’t provide proper warning labels for its product. Warning labels are especially important for potentially dangerous products like lawnmowers and cars. If you look under the hood of your car, you’ll probably find five or more warning labels in various places.

If a manufacturer fails to put satisfactory warning labels on a product, you can hold it liable.

What Damages Can Be Recovered Under the New Jersey Product Liability Act?

judge gavel and dollar bills on wooden table

If you win your product liability case, you can recover compensatory and punitive damages. Let’s explore both types of damage next.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages, as the name implies, are intended to compensate you for your injuries. Damages available to you will depend on your case, but might include:

  • Lost wages if you suffered an injury that prevents you from working
  • Injury-related medical expenses, such as emergency transportation, surgery, medications, medical equipment, and doctor’s appointments
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

The first three damages are fairly self-explanatory, but what about the last two? “Pain and suffering” refers to physical pain you experience as a result of an accident or injury. “Mental anguish” can refer to emotional harm caused by a defective product.

For instance, Lucy became disfigured after a leaf blower that she was using exploded. Now, she’s too embarrassed to leave the house. Lucy could sue the manufacturer for mental anguish.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are more difficult to win than compensatory damages. They are intended to punish the manufacturer for egregious behavior rather than compensate you for damages.

A judge might award punitive damages if a manufacturer knew its product was dangerous and refused to recall it. However, if the manufacturer was simply careless, the judge probably wouldn’t award punitive damages.

Key Elements To Prove in a Product Liability Claim

To recover damages in a product liability lawsuit, you must prove that the manufacturer’s product caused your injuries. This is more difficult than you may think, so you’ll probably need a good product liability lawyer to guide you through the process.

Defective Product

First, you’ll need to prove that the product was somehow defective. As mentioned above, you can sue for:

  • Manufacturing defects (inadequate manufacturing specifications or formulae, for example)
  • Design defects
  • Inadequate warning labels


Next, you must prove that the product directly caused your injuries. A report from your doctor can help make the connection, so it’s wise to see your care provider promptly after the accident.

Injury or Damages

You will also have to prove that the product caused you damages. In addition to physical injuries, these may include:

  • Damage to your home or belongings
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages or loss of earning potential
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Foreseeability and Use

“Foreseeability of misuse” means “capable of being expected or seen.” In layman’s terms, it means that someone may use a product in a way the manufacturer didn’t foresee or intend. However, the manufacturer should have known that a consumer might use the product this way.

Examples include:

  • Using an electronic gadget in the shower
  • Lighting a gas grill inside one’s home or garage
  • Sticking one’s hand in a moving blender

You may think that a manufacturer isn’t liable if you used a product in a manner that it didn’t intend. However, if the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings for the misuse of its product, you might be able to hold it liable.

Statute of Limitations and Timeframes for Filing Claims

laptop with alarm clock on top of keyboard

You must abide by several deadlines to recover damages for injuries related to a faulty product.

Time Limits for Filing Suit

In New Jersey, you have two years from the date of your injury to sue the manufacturer if a defect exists. If you don’t make a claim within two years, you usually cannot recover damages.

Discovery Rule

There is one exception to the two-year limit: the discovery rule. This rule says you must file a claim within two years of discovering that a product caused your injury or illness.

For instance, let’s say that you’ve been feeling sickly for the past few months. After some investigation, you discover that a product you’ve used for years is emitting dangerous fumes. You could sue the manufacturer even though the initial injury happened more than two years ago.

Statute of Repose

New Jersey’s statute of repose says that if you’re injured by unsafe or negligent construction, you must file a claim against the party that created, surveyed, planned, or supervised the construction within 10 years of your injury. The statute of repose protects architects and contractors from lifetime liability.

Unlike the statute of limitations, the statute of repose has no exceptions for discovery. So, if you discover that your builder did shoddy work 15 years after the fact, you’re unfortunately out of luck.

What Steps Can Businesses Take To Mitigate Product Liability Risks in New Jersey?

If you own a business, you might worry that a consumer could sue you under the NJPLA. However, you can prevent lawsuits by following the tips below.

Product Testing and Quality Control

No matter how excited you are to release your product, never do so without thorough testing. You must ensure your product is safe to use and anticipate all of the ways in which consumers might use it.

Clear Labeling and Instructions

Poor instructions and inadequate labeling have cost many manufacturers a lot of money in product liability suits. To avoid a lawsuit of your own, place clear warning labels on the product in obvious places. If there are any risks associated with using the product, put those risks in the instruction manual. The instruction manual should also warn consumers of the dangers of improper use.

Legal Compliance

Ensure that your product complies with all local laws. If it doesn’t, you could find yourself in hot water if a consumer suffers an injury from your product.

Insurance Coverage

Even small businesses need product liability insurance. Property insurance and workers’ compensation insurance won’t protect you from a product liability claim.

Product liability insurance can be a lifesaver if someone injures themselves while using your products. The insurance company will cover their damages, preventing you from paying out of pocket.

Recall Procedures and Continuous Improvement

What’s your plan if a handful of consumers complain about product defects? If you don’t have a recall procedure, make one now. Your recall plan should outline the following:

  • At what point you will issue a product recall
  • Remedies you will offer for defective products (such as cash payments or a replacement product)

Lastly, aim for continuous improvement, and don’t settle for “good enough.” If you can make your products better and safer, it’s wise to do so.

Are There Any Caps on Damages Under the NJPLA?

New Jersey does not cap compensatory damages for a product liability claim, but it does cap punitive damages. Punitive damages cannot exceed $350,000 or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.

Ready To Make a Product Liability Claim? Call Us

Under the New Jersey Product Liability Act, you have the ability to pursue compensation if you’ve suffered injuries from a defective product. If you need help filing a product liability claim, reach out to a personal injury lawyer from Sadaka Law at (800) 810-3457.



Principal & Founder
This article was written by Mark Sadaka, a seasoned trial lawyer in nationally significant cases. He fearlessly champions clients impacted by fatal or severe injuries caused by others or corporations. Renowned for his expertise in complex litigation, he's featured in books, sought after by media for interviews, and a highly sought speaker. Notably, he exclusively represents individuals facing life-changing injuries or substantial financial losses.

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