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Vol. 2008-6-b | June, 2008

Designers and Product Liability

Products liability, e.g., defects in either manufacturing or design of a product, or failure to warn, have been the concern of legislators and the subject of many litigation claims in the courts.

Claims for injuries and harm caused by products liability defects are based on the theory of negligence. One basic general legal principle is: “A manufacturer of a chattel made under a plan or design which makes it dangerous for the uses for which it is manufactured is subject to liability to others whom he should expect to use the chattel or to be endangered by its probable use for physical harm caused by his failure to exercise reasonable care in the adoption of a safe plan or design.” Restatement (Second) of Torts ยง 398 (1965).

To succeed on a negligence claim, the plaintiff must satisfy the elements of duty, breach, causation and injury / damages. Absent a duty of care, there can be no liability for negligence. A person is not negligent toward another unless he owes the other a duty to be careful.

Liability thereby attaches “.when a product’s manufacturer or seller has failed to use reasonable care to eliminate foreseeable dangers which subject a user to an unreasonable risk of injury.” A negligence finding “signifies that the product was unreasonably dangerous because of its design or because of its failure to be accompanied by an adequate warning, or both.” See: COONS v. A.F. CHAPMAN CORP., 460 F.Supp.2d 209 (D. Mass. 2006).

Importantly, a claimant who sues a particular manufacturer for product liability generally must be able to prove that the item, which it is claimed caused the injury, can be traced to that specific manufacturer.

Negligence claims involving harmful, substances and gases, such as formaldehyde, are often difficult to prove, because the evidence (as a vapor or gas) literally disappears, and the harmful effects upon the claimant(s) also tend to improve or disappear. Here, the immediate examination, diagnosis and treatment of any condition or harm alleged must be made and documented carefully by experienced medical specialists, as evidence, for presentation at trial. Without such expertise, claims for products liability may fail for lack of competent, admissible, substantive evidence as credible proof of valid claims made.

Scoundrels are always sociable.
Arthur Schopenhauer

AUTHOR / EDITOR: J. NORMAN STARK is an Attorney-at-Law, a Registered Architect, (AIA, NCARB) Registered Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Planner and Senior Appraiser (ASA), admitted to practice law before the Bar of Ohio, the US District Courts, Ohio and Illinois (Central Dist.), the US Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. He is a Mediator, Arbitrator and Litigator with experience in Business, Construction Law, and Public Works, and with additional experience in Real Estate, Construction Attorney (Legal Project and Crisis Management), and as an Expert Witness (Forensic Architect). His office is in Cleveland, Ohio.