Jury Instructions in Products Liability Lawsuits

The judge gives instructions to the jury (also called the jury charge) after both sides present their evidence at trial. The instructions tell the jury the law it must follow in reaching a verdict. The jury's function is to consider all the evidence and decide what happened. There are three separate types of claims in products liability lawsuits: strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. An injured consumer can sue a manufacturer for breach of warranty when the product fails to meet the terms of an express warranty or an implied warranty of fitness for its intended use. This article discusses jury instructions in strict liability lawsuits based on breach of warranty.

Preliminary Instructions

The judge gives the jurors general instructions describing their responsibilities. The jurors are told not to listen to news reports about the case and not to talk about the case with anyone, including other jurors. The judge warns the jurors not to reach a conclusion about the case before jury deliberations begin.

Instructions on Breach of Express Warranty Claim

The jury instructions in a products liability lawsuit based on breach of an express warranty identify the elements that must be shown to prove a breach. An express warranty is a promise or guarantee by the manufacturer about the condition, quality or use of a product. The consumer must show that there was an oral or written promise or guarantee by the manufacturer and that the product was not of the condition or quality as promised by the manufacturer.

Instructions on Elements of Breach of Implied Warranty Claim

The jury instructions in a products liability lawsuit based on breach of an implied warranty identify the elements that must be shown to prove a breach. The consumer must show that the product was not reasonably safe for its intended use and that the consumer was injured or his/her property was damaged while using the product.

Instructions on Damages

If the jury finds that there was a breach of an expressed or an implied warranty, the jury instructions direct the jury to award damages to the consumer to compensate him/her for the injury. The jury is also told that it can award punitive damages to punish the manufacturer and to deter such behavior in the future.

Closing Instructions

The judge instructs the jury that it has a duty to determine the facts based on the evidence presented in the trial. The judge also instructs the jury that it must follow the law exactly as the judge explains it to the jury, even if the jurors disagree with the law. The judge warns the jury not to allow prejudice, bias, sympathy or public opinion to influence the verdict.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.