What Is Misbranding?

November 10, 2023

Misbranding is accidentally or intentionally labeling a product with incorrect information. The error can be innocuous, but it can also cause injury. If you have been harmed by a product due to misbranding, a misbranding product lawyer can potentially help you get compensation for your losses.

Defining Misbranding

Misbranding is a serious action that puts the public at risk. In Pennsylvania, state authorities have the power to prosecute as felonies cases of misbranding of drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics. The federal government has the same power. And private citizens who are harmed by acts of misbranding can seek compensation for their losses.

But what acts constitute misbranding? According to Pennsylvania Statutes 35 P.S. Health And Safety §780-108, misbranding occurs in relation to controlled substances, drugs or other devices and cosmetics in the following cases:

  • A label on a product containing false or misleading information
  • Packaged products without the name and location of the manufacturer, packer,  or distributor and without proper information relating to the quantity of product
  • Packages where required labeling is not displayed prominently or is displayed in a place where it is not likely to be read
  • Controlled substances for human consumption that are not labeled as “habit-forming”
  • Drugs, devices, or cosmetics offered for sale under the names of other products to mislead the purchaser
  • Products with inadequate labels relating to children.

This list is not exhaustive, and it does not cover other products that may be misbranded, such as food. Additionally, it is substantially similar to the list published in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Both of these lists are used by authorities to regulate product labels, and both are used as reference points in lawsuits against companies that misbrand their products.

Why Proper Branding Is Important

Proper branding is intended to protect consumers and boost their confidence in the marketplace, which in turn makes for a healthier society. Branding and labeling laws were once non-existent; they were eventually developed to distinguish levels of quality and identify producers. They also came about due to the sheer number of products that began populating the marketplace in the early 20th century. Laws were enacted to maintain consumer confidence and to establish accountability for product makers.

When Misbranding Causes Injuries or Death

Sadly, misbranding often leads to injuries, and it can sometimes be fatal. Unsuspecting consumers purchase products to make their lives easier only to find that the products are dangerously different than what their labels describe. Misbranded products regularly make it onto the market and sometimes remain there until enough injuries or fatalities occur to convince the product maker to act.

Compensation Claims

Victims of products turned dangerous by misbranding can seek damages for their losses. Product makers, distributors, and retailers owe a duty to consumers to keep dangerous products from ever reaching the marketplace. If even one dangerously misbranded product does make it into the marketplace, and this product causes harm, the victim has a case for damages. This is true regardless of whether the liable party took all possible care in getting the product to market.

In other words, Pennsylvania is a strict liability state when it comes to products that hurt and kill. Designers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can be held strictly liable for a dangerously misbranded product. Strictly liable means that liability is automatic. The victim pursuing damages does not have to prove that the defendant was negligent or reckless or acted intentionally.

If a party is found liable for damages, that party will potentially have to pay compensation for the following economic and non-economic losses:

  • Medical bills
  • Bills for time spent in hospitals
  • Outlays for prescription medication
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Mental anguish.

Additionally, punitive damages are sometimes appropriate in misbranding product liability cases. Punitive damages in Pennsylvania are awarded only when the victim can prove that the defendant acted with outrageous conduct — conduct that is driven by an evil motive or that demonstrates a reckless indifference to the rights of others. Punitive damages are capped in Pennsylvania, but damages for economic and non-economic losses are not.

Individual vs. Class Action Lawsuits

When a large company releases a dangerously defective product onto the market, many people can be affected. These victims often band together for class action lawsuits. However, there must be a significant number of plaintiffs for a class action lawsuit, and they all must have suffered losses due to the same or similar misbranding issues. When this is not the case, victims may still file individual lawsuits.

Understanding Misbranding

Misbranding is often more than a simple labeling error. Product makers often misbrand products in an effort to mislead consumers into making purchases. It’s that simple. Some play with words and manipulate nuances to give the impression that their product is something that it is not. Technically, these claims are not outright lies, but they are still considered to be deception.

Other product makers do blatantly lie. They make false claims about an item’s effectiveness or about its safety. Or they may claim that a product was packaged properly to avoid the deterioration of the product when in fact it was not.

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Misbranding Case?

If a product has caused you to suffer injuries and losses because of a misbranding issue, you should seriously consider speaking with an experienced product liability lawyer. You may be eligible to collect significant compensation for the losses you have endured, and you should have an adept lawyer fighting to get you maximum compensation.

Without a lawyer, misbranding victims face an unfamiliar and unforgiving compensation process. An attorney puts their client on equal or better footing with the insurance adjusters and defense attorneys handling the case. Insurance companies regularly pay far less compensation to clients without attorneys than to clients who hire lawyers.

A Product Liability Lawyer Can Help

Misbranded products hurt and kill. If you’ve suffered losses due to a misbranded product, contact the team at Wapner Newman to discuss your options. You may be entitled to significant compensation. Call (215) 569-0900 today.