Product Liability

If you are in the business of manufacturing products, you need to have a basic understanding of the law of product liability.

The U.S. has a system of "strict liability" for defective products. If a product has a defect, and that defect causes injury to a person or their property in the product's normal course of use, the manufacturer of the product is liable for the injury.

There are 3 basic types of product defects: design defects, manufacturing defects, and warning defects.

If a product is inherently unsafe when it is manufactured according to its design, it suffers from a design defect. To avoid future liability once it is discovered, the only course of action is to redesign the product, or, if that's not possible, to discontinue it.

If a product's design is sound, but there has been some mistake in manufacturing it, this is known as a manufacturing defect.

Finally, if there is a known danger inherent to using the product, and there is no practical way to fix it without making the product less useful (for example, sharp knives are dangerous, but if they were so dull as to be completely safe, the knives would be useless), consumers need to be warned of the danger. Furthermore, if it is anticipated that the consumer might use a product for some purpose other than its intended function, they should be warned of any dangers which that use is likely to create.

For example, it's common for people to use chairs as step-stools. This is not the intended use of the chair, but anyone who makes chairs should anticipate that someone might use it in such a manner. If there is something in the design of the chair making this particularly dangerous, there needs to be a clear warning.