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Who is liable when a defective gift hurts someone?

The challenges people face related to gift-giving are often logistical. Individuals need to know what someone else enjoys to select a good gift. They may also need to budget months ahead of time to afford holiday gifts for everyone on their list.

People are less likely to think about the risks that come after a recipient opens the present. However, there is always the possibility that the items selected as someone’s holiday gift will be a defective product. The item may have design flaws that the gift giver was unaware of because they never handled the items directly. There could also be an issue with a specific production batch due to mistakes made by employees or cheap materials.

Is the person who gives a defective holiday gift likely to be liable for the damages it causes?

Manufacturers typically have primary liability

The good news for someone giving holiday gifts is that the company that manufactured the dangerous items could be liable for any damages the product may have caused. Consumers can bring defective product lawsuits against manufacturers when an item fails and causes injury or substantial property damage.

For example, in recent years, hoverboards have been popular gift requests. Unfortunately, some of these devices are not actually safe to use and could cause house fires when charging or in storage. Manufacturers that put out products with defective wiring or bad batteries would likely be responsible for damages generated when those products fail catastrophically.

Sometimes gift-givers may have some liability. If they registered the product and received notice of a recall, they would need to notify the gift recipient about the recall. Scenarios in which it appears that the gift giver was aware of the defect and did not disclose that matter to the recipient might lead to a degree of liability for the person who purchased the defective item.

As a general rule, it is usually a better option to let the recipient register the product to ensure that they receive notice about any recalls or updates regarding product safety. Gift givers may also want to check recently recalled products before shopping to ensure that they don’t accidentally purchase an unsafe item for someone on their holiday gift list. They may also want to retain purchase information and receipts to better facilitate a claim by gift recipients if a product turns out to be defective.

Addressing the possibility of a gift-related injury can reduce some of the liability risks associated with holiday gift exchanges. In the wake of such injuries, seeking legal guidance is generally wise.