When a company gets sued in a product liability matter, one of the first questions clients often ask their lawyers is, “how long is this going to take?” There is not a simple answer because each product liability claim is unique. And since product liability cases are often complex because they typically involve intricate scientific and technological issues and multiple parties, these matters can be especially long-lived.
For example, this case in which the original plaintiff alleges that the sunroof glass an automaker used was defective highlights how product liability litigation can take years to resolve. This claim was filed in 2017, the class of plaintiffs was certified in August 2022, and the case has yet to go to trial.
Why the Long Timeline?
In the world of complex product liability litigation, there is a great deal of work to be done – such as discovery, research, deposition-taking, identifying and retaining experts, law and motion work – before the parties ever appear in court. Class actions, such as the sunroof case mentioned earlier, typically have even longer timelines. At the outset, the identification and establishment of a “class” can be a laborious and lengthy process.
Is There Any Way to Be Proactive?
To avoid a prolonged litigation process, a legal team may seek summary judgment against the plaintiff class. However, this strategy can backfire. For example, in the sunroof case, pursuing summary judgment was part of the reason the class was certified. Ultimately, that case hinged on a technical matter relating to subtle semantic interpretations used by the defense, an inherent risk in litigation. The defense can also try to settle the case if the projected trial costs far exceed the predicted settlement range, and the evidence and witness deposition testimony weighs in favor of the plaintiff(s).
Ultimately, if the case does go to trial, it is crucial to engage a defense team of experienced litigators with a long track record of achieving favorable outcomes in product liability cases for other clients.