With over fifteen years of experience in the field of products liability law, attorney Brian Smith shares his insight into this challenging and growing practice area.
Q. What is products liability law?
A. Products liability involves the defense of manufacturers and sellers of allegedly defective products. I defend companies who are sued by injured plaintiffs due to alleged defects in the design or manufacture of a product. Generally, the injured parties claim that additional safety features should have been included or that a necessary part was improperly manufactured or installed on a product.
Q. What do you love about practicing in the area of products liability law?
A. I love the diversity of the practice. Every case involves a different product and a different theory. I have to become an "expert" on the safe design, manufacture and use of a wide range of products. It is never a dull day.
Q. What are the challenges of practicing products liability law?
A. Being able to understand engineering and design issues is very challenging. Cases often involve complex products and issues that require consultation with engineering experts. Learning to speak their language and how to convey technical information to a judge and jury is challenging. Frequently, cases involve serious injury and death. Dealing with the emotional component of cases is difficult.
Q. Describe a typical day in your practice area.
A. I don't have a typical day. At any time I might be reviewing pleadings or working with a client to identify documents to provide to the other side. I might be preparing a motion to dismiss a case for legal reasons, inspecting an accident scene or product involved in the case or taking the deposition of a witness. Every day is different.
Q. Are employment opportunities growing in this field?
A. Opportunities abound in this field. Every year, 34 million people are injured or killed as a result of product related accidents. As the number of lawsuits against product manufacturers increase, the need for skilled products liability defense attorneys is also increasing.
Q. What skills are needed to practice in this area?
A. You need to be smart and naturally inquisitive. You must have thick skin and a strong stomach because the injuries can be gruesome. You must be able understand complex technical questions and have an ability to talk to people with far greater understanding of the "product" than you have.
Q. How can someone with no experience break into this field?
A. Your best bet is to clerk at a law firm that specializes in products liability cases. Another opportunity is to clerk or intern with a corporation that is often sued for product defects. Many companies have in-house legal departments that perform a lot of work in the area of products liability defense.