Where Do I File My Defective Product Lawsuit? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Product liability lawsuits are legal actions brought against manufacturers, distributors, retailers, or other parties involved in the production or distribution of a defective product that causes harm to consumers. These lawsuits aim to hold responsible parties accountable for injuries, illnesses, or damages resulting from the use of their products. A victim who is injured because of a dangerous or defective product may be entitled to financial compensation for their medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and more. Product liability laws are in place to protect consumers and ensure that products in the marketplace are safe for their intended use.

Product liability lawsuits typically revolve around three types of defects:

  • Design defects: These involve flaws in the product’s design that make it inherently dangerous.
  • Manufacturing defects: These occur during the production process and result in individual products being unsafe, even if the design is sound.
  • Marketing defects (failure to warn): This relates to inadequate warnings, instructions, or labeling, which fail to alert consumers to potential risks associated with the product’s use.


In the majority of personal injury lawsuits, the lawsuit is filed in the court that has jurisdiction in the location where the incident took place. Jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority over the parties involved in the lawsuit. For example, if a car accident occurs in Virginia Beach, the victim would file their car accident lawsuit with the Virginia Beach General District Court. But when it comes to a product liability lawsuit, there may be a question of where the lawsuit should be filed if the at-fault party is located in another state.

Establishing Jurisdiction

The first thing an attorney will do is establish which state has jurisdiction over the case. To establish jurisdiction over a defendant, you generally need to show that the defendant has sufficient contact with the state or jurisdiction where you plan to file the lawsuit. It is not uncommon for an alleged at-fault company in defective product cases to have headquarters in another state other than where the victim resides, but certain factors can meet the jurisdiction requirements:

  • The company has a warehouse, branch office, or other entity that is connected to the defective product operating in the same state as the victim.
  • The company used phone calls, brochures, or other media to market their product to the victim.

In its 2017 ruling, SCOTUS wrote that a state does not have jurisdiction over an at-fault party without at least minimum contact that is somehow relevant to the lawsuit. For example, property the company owns in the state that is not connected in any way to the product in question would not qualify as minimum contact. In fact, in many cases where the states allowed jurisdiction, the at-fault parties are using this ruling to request that the case be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Proving Your Case

Given the complexity of product liability law, it is highly advisable for victims to seek legal representation from a Virginia personal injury attorney who has experience in these types of cases. Your attorney can investigate the claim, gather evidence, negotiate with the defendant’s legal team, and, if necessary, represent you in court if the case goes to trial.

After evaluating your case, your attorney may advise one of the following legal strategies:

  • Strict liability: Many product liability claims are based on the principle of strict liability. This means that plaintiffs do not need to prove that the manufacturer or distributor was negligent in producing the defective product. Instead, they must demonstrate that the product was defective and that the defect caused their injuries.
  • Breach of warranty: Product liability lawsuits can also be based on breaches of express or implied warranties. Express warranties are specific promises made by the manufacturer or seller about the product’s quality or performance, while implied warranties are presumed promises about the product’s fitness for a particular purpose.

It is crucial for victims to preserve evidence related to the defective product, including the product itself, packaging, instructions, and any records of the purchase. This evidence can be essential in proving the case. It is also important to talk to an experienced Virginia defective product attorney about your possible defective product legal case as early as possible because there are applicable statutes of limitation for all defective product cases in Virginia, North Carolina, as well as every other state.

At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, our product liability attorneys have proven results in winning tough product liability cases, such as a $2.5 million product liability verdict for the widow of a man who was burned alive when his ride-on lawnmower caught fire and exploded. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your product liability case.