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Hawaii Product Liability Laws

Known as the "Paradise of the Pacific," Hawaii is rightfully loved by locals and tourists alike. From its unique, deep-rooted culture to its endless offering of outdoor activity, it's impossible to get bored in the Aloha State. But with all that activity, it is possible to be injured by any number of products you use on a daily basis. Thankfully, Hawaii's product liability laws provide a means for seeking compensation and holding manufacturers accountable for their defective products.

The table below lists some key aspects of Hawaii's product liability laws, followed by descriptions of the state's filing deadlines, damages rules, common defenses, and more.

Statute of Limitations

2 years (Sec. 657-7)

Discovery Rule Used Yes (Hays v. City & County of Honolulu, 81 Hawaii 391, 396 (1996))
Statute of Repose 10 years (only applies to deficiencies in improvements to real property) (Sec. 657-8)
Limits on Damages

Economic loss rule (Bronster v. United States Steel, 919 P.2d 294 (Haw. 1996))

Comparative Fault Contributory negligence rules apply (Sec. 663-31 and Hao v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., 738 P.2d 416 (Haw. 1987))

Time Limits

Under Hawaii's "statute of limitations," plaintiffs have two years from the date of injury, death, or property damage in which to file a product liability lawsuit. In some cases, however, the discovery rule extends that time frame by measuring the deadline from when you knew, or should have discovered, the damage.

Limits on Damages

Hawaii has somewhat unique contributory negligence rules that limit damages in some cases. For product defect cases based on strict liability, courts apply a pure comparative negligence standard which allows you to seek recovery even if you were 95 percent at fault for causing the accident. For actions based on negligence, the modified comparative negligence standard is used and only allows recovery if you're 50 percent or less at fault. In either case, your compensation will be diminished in proportion to your degree of fault. So, for example, an $80,000 award will be reduced to $60,000 if you're 25 percent at fault for causing your own injuries.

With some exceptions, Hawaii also follows the economic loss rule. Under this rule, if the only harm that occurred was to the product itself, you are barred from pursuing damages in a product liability case.

Theories of Liability

Hawaii allows for product liability actions based on both negligence and strict liability. These lawsuits often include claims of design defect, manufacturing defect, or insufficient warnings.

In design defect claims, the plaintiff alleges that there is something inherently flawed about the manufacturer's design, while manufacturing defects involve flaws that occur during the production process regardless of how safe the design is. Failure to warn cases allege that the manufacturer had a duty to warn users of unreasonably dangerous aspects of its product.

Two different tests are used to determine whether a product is defective. The consumer expectations test asks whether a product failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in its intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. Under the risk-utility test, on the other hand, the defendant must prove that the benefits of the design outweigh the design's inherent risk of danger.

Common Defenses

The defendant in a product liability suit may deny liability by alleging from the outset that the harm was actually caused by a modification to the product after it left the defendant's control, or by an unforeseeable misuse by the end user. In failure to warn cases, a defendant may also argue that the danger involved in the use of its product was so open and obvious that there was no duty to warn the consumer.

Discuss Products Liability with a Hawaii Attorney

Whether you were injured by the latest scuba gear or your defective ATV caused property damage, you shouldn't have to bear those costs alone. And manufacturers should be held accountable for their dangerous products even if you're partly to blame for your injuries. Find out more about your options by discussing your case with a local personal injury attorney located near you.

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