Torts: Strict Liability: Product Injuries

Product Injuries – person gets hurt by a product, that person is likely to have multiple causes of action. There could be a negligence claim; there could be a breach of warranty claim, and strict liability. Look at the call of the question closely.

Π must show 4 things:
  • Δ is a merchant (who routinely deals in goods of the kind). Only a merchant will be held strictly liable.
    • Casual sellers – they are not merchants. They are people who sell stuff on e-bay, at a garage sale, those who advertise their car for sale in the classifieds.
    • Service providers – a provider of services will often make goods available as part of the service, but they are not considered a merchant of those items and they will not be strictly liable. Restaurant not strictly liable for faulty chairs.
    • Commercial lessor – is a merchant even though it doesn’t part with title to the goods. Therefore, it can be strictly liable. (Rental Car company)
    • Every merchant in the chain of distribution is a merchant and can be held strictly liable. Π is not limited to suing the party that he dealt with directly. No privity of contract is required for strict liability.
  • Π must show that product can be defective (2 ways)
    • By showing that the product has a manufacturing defect – if it is different from all the others that came off the assembly line in a way that makes it more dangerous than consumers would expect.
      • Unexpectedly dangerous – it’s a 1 in a million. Where the blade comes off the base housing and cuts your leg when you go to mow the lawn.
        • Safety precautions are irrelevant for SL!
    • Design defect: a product has a design defect when there is another way to build it. When there is a hypothetical alternative design that can be shown by Π. Π must show that HAD meets 3 tests, and if Π does that, they can show that version actually marketed is defected.
      • Π must show that HAD is safer than product that was actually marketed
      • Π must show that HAD is cost neutral. (same price to manufacture as the one marketed)
      • Π must show that HAD is practical. Product can’t be hard to use or its central function can’t be undermined.
      • If Π does this, it means that the version marketed is defective and any person injured by it has a valid claim against any company in the product distribution chain.
    • Product information can become relevant in an SL analysis. If a product cannot be physically redesigned to be safer in a cost neutral and practical way, and if it has a residual risk not apparent to users/consumers, that product must bear a warning. If it lacks a warning it is a defective product.
      • Warnings must come to the attention of the user. Must be clear, maybe have multiple languages, or pictures.
      • You cannot absolve yourself of SL by slapping a warning on a product if there is a valid HAD.
  • Π must show that product was not altered since it left Δ’s hands.
    • If the product traveled in ordinary channels of distribution, it was assumed that it was not altered. Δ must raise the issue, if the Δ has evidence that something else happened in the chain.
  • Π must show that he was making a foreseeable use of the product.
    • Bar exam trick: A foreseeable use is not limited to whether it was proper or improper use.