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Sellers as possible defendants in a claim for product liability

A distinguishing characteristic of product liability law in Ohio is that it can tie in defendants throughout the chain of distribution from the time the defective product was designed to the point where it left the store.

Many times the focus of a lawsuit alleging product liability will focus on the manufacturer, based on claims that the product was defectively designed, defectively made, or both. But in some circumstances a seller of the product, Ohio law refers to such an individual or business as a "supplier," can also be held responsible.

Ohio law provides for two general paths to hold a supplier liable for a dangerously defective item.

  • The first path relies on the supplier causing harm to the plaintiff either making a false statement about the product, or by acting negligently. Note that the false claim need not have been made intentionally, or even recklessly or negligently: the statement's falsity, and resulting harm, are what is important to establish.
  • The second path takes into account situations such as when the product manufacturer is unavailable to file a lawsuit against (because it is outside of Ohio and cannot be served with a summons and complaint, or because it is no longer in business due to insolvency) or because the manufacturer and the supplier had a relationship with each other in which either effectively owned the other. Additional situations include a supplier providing a manufacturer with a defective product design, or changing the product and that change caused the harm, or the supplier relabeling the product is its own.

Under either of the two paths above, a supplier that is found responsible for the plaintiff's harm is liable to the plaintiff for compensatory damages.

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