Ontarians place a lot of faith in manufacturers and distributors. We rely on them to provide us with safe and effective products that we use and consume every day. But what happens when that faith is misplaced and a manufacturer’s negligence results in loss or injury to a person?

Manufacturing and design defects in products can have devastating consequences for consumers. Thankfully, the law creates obligations for manufacturers and allows consumers to bring product liability claims in certain circumstances. If you have been injured due to manufacturer negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Product Liability Claims: Tort Law vs. Contract Law

Product liability claims can be brought under contract law or tort law. The main difference between these two types of claims is the existence of a contract between the parties.

For example, if you purchase an item that comes with a contract or a warranty, your product liability claim might be based on the manufacturer’s failure to meet a condition (a “fundamental obligation” of the contract) or warranty (a “promise or statement” about the product in the contract) in the contract. In a contract claim, the injured party needs to show that a contract existed and that a condition or warranty of the contract resulted in a loss. If the injured party establishes that a condition of the contract was breached, they can refuse the contract. However, if the injured party establishes that a warranty in the contract was breached, they can claim damages.

On the other hand, if the injured party brings a product liability claim in tort law, they will likely be bringing a negligence claim. It is important to note that parties other than a manufacturer may be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries in a product liability case in tort. Here, there does not need to be a contractual relationship between the parties. This means that in addition to the manufacturer, other parties may be found responsible (such as designers or distributors).

The unique circumstances of your claim will determine whether you bring a claim in contract law or tort law. A skilled product liability lawyer will be in the best position to assess the merits of your claim and how to best proceed.

Types of Product Liability Claims in Tort Law

Several types of product liability claims arise in tort law, including the following:

  • Design defects. For example, if a consumer is injured by a chest of drawers falling forward on them due to poor design.
  • Manufacturing defects. For example, if a consumer is injured by a power tool that was designed properly, but the manufacturer failed to install a safety guard during the manufacturing process.
  • Failure to warn. For example, if a consumer is injured after consuming medication that did not contain proper warning on the packaging regarding potential side-effects or interactions.

The Test for Establishing a Product Liability Claim in Tort Law

To establish a negligence claim, the injured party needs to prove the following:

  • the negligent party owed a duty of care to the injured party;
  • the negligent party breached the applicable standard of care;
  • the injured party sustained damages; and
  • the damages were caused by the negligent party’s negligence.

If the injured party establishes the elements above, they will be entitled to damages for the injuries and losses they have suffered from the negligent party or parties’ wrongdoing, including compensatory damages (such as medical expenses or income loss), and non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment).

In rare circumstances, the injured party may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages have been awarded where the negligent party’s actions were “harsh, vindictive, reprehensible and malicious” (Hockley v. Riley). Claims for punitive damages are not designed to compensate the injured party, but rather, to punish the negligent party for exceptionally bad behaviour.

Product Liability Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

If you have been injured by a defective product, or negligence on the part of a manufacturer, you may be entitled to compensation for the losses you suffer, including pain and suffering, costs of medical or other care, and loss of earnings. At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our product liability team will advise you of your rights and will help you obtain the compensation necessary for your immediate and long-term needs.

Contact Tierney Stauffer LLP to learn how our experienced product liability lawyers can help you achieve the maximum compensation for your product liability case. We provide our clients with the knowledge and resources required to make informed decisions about their claims. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with a member of our team.


Fax: 613-728-9866
510-1600 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario
K1Z 0A1


Toll-Free: 1-888-799-8057
340 Second Street East
Cornwall, Ontario
K6H 1Y9


Toll-Free: 1-888-799-8057
556 O’Connor Drive
Kingston, Ontario
K7P 1N3

North Bay

Toll-Free: 1-888-799-8057