Products Liability: Strict Liability vs. Negligence?

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Products Liability: Strict Liability vs. Negligence?

Postby ellewoods87 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:04 pm

our professor rushed through the last section of our class and didn't really elaborate on this. when do you bring a products liability claim under negligence as opposed to strict liability? is it when there is evidence that the manufacturer, retailer, etc. didn't use reasonable care...otherwise bring it under SL?

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Re: Products Liability: Strict Liability vs. Negligence?

Postby lawnerd1 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:13 pm

Basically. Negligence principles apply to products liability as well. You can also have a breach of warranty claim in addition to SL and negligence.

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Re: Products Liability: Strict Liability vs. Negligence?

Postby Cogburn87 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 6:42 pm

It depends on the type of defect.

Manufacturing Defect:
Negligence = Quality control was inadequate (i.e., the manufacturer was negligent) and this led to a manufacturing defect
Strict liability = The product had a manufacturing defect (regardless of quality control measures)

Plaintiffs can (and do) bring manufacturing defect claims under both headings. The only inconsistent verdict that would result from this would be a finding of no strict liability, but negligent manufacturing (i.e., you cant be found negligent for having bad quality control if there was in fact no defect in the product).

Design Defect & Failure to Warn:
Design defect and failure to warn claims are not true strict liability claims (except in the sense that non-manufacturing sellers are held liable regardless of the care they use). Design defect, in most jurisdictions, is about risk-utility balancing. This is essentially negligence (failure to adopt a reasonable alternative design is akin to an untaken precaution). Failure to warn is essentially a reasonableness inquiry as well.

Courts continue to call design and failure to warn claims "strict liability" because that was the doctrinal label the Second Restatement used. The doctrinal labels are irrelevant. The issue is simply defect.

Therefore, unlike for manufacturing defects, if a design or failure to warn claim is submitted to a jury under two or more doctrinal labels (negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of implied merchantibility) with conflicting results, the verdict is inconsistent.

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Re: Products Liability: Strict Liability vs. Negligence?

Postby zomginternets » Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:23 pm

The Third Restatement actually does away completely with the labels of "strict liability" and "negligence" and just creates a product liability COA for manufacturing defects, design defects, and marketing defects.

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Re: Products Liability: Strict Liability vs. Negligence?

Postby booboo » Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:39 pm

The way it was explained to me was that products liability has gone through shifts, from the privity era of contracts, to the negligence standard for manufacturing defects in MacPherson, to the strict liability shift in Traynor's Escola concurrence. Though design defects and failure to warn categories of products liability seem to have negligence-esque tests, it is key to remember that they are still considered to be under strict liability. That, however, shouldn't preclude you from considering the negligence-esque tests of design defects in relation to how it relates or is affected by other negligence standards, if only for comparison purposes.

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Re: Products Liability: Strict Liability vs. Negligence?

Postby target » Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:08 am

Basically, under Rest 2nd, all strict liability

But under Rest 3rd, strict liability for manufacturing defect, negligence for design and duty to warn.

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