What is Strict Product Liability?


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Strict liability is liability without proof of negligence or intentional wrongdoing.  A defendant’s liability is not triggered by an act of negligence or some general duty of care but merely because the defendant, or his product, has caused harm to a consumer of that product.  Strict liability as to a defective product will often be imposed on both the product manufacturer and the retailers of that product.  In a product liability case, in order to recover in strict liability, a plaintiff must prove that the product was defective when it left the hands of the manufacturer or retailer.  The doctrine of strict liability in tort does not apply to cases where here has been no personal injury.  Courts have refused to extend the doctrine of strict liability to an ordinary user of a product who has suffered an economic loss only.

Strict Liability in Product Liability Cases

A product may be defective in its manufacture, design or in a related failure to give adequate warnings to consumers of that product concerning known hazards involved with the foreseeable consumer use of that product.

Defective Manufacture

The essential elements of a strict liability claim involving defective manufacture of a product are: (1) the defendant manufactured or supplied the defective product, (2) the product was defectively manufactured, (3) the product was defective when it left the manufacturer’s possession, (4) the defect was the cause of the injury at issue and (5) the use of the product which caused the injury was a foreseeable use to the manufacturer of the product.  A product can be considered defective if it differs from the manufacturer's usual manufacture result or if differs from identical products from the same manufacturer.

Defective Design

The essential elements of a strict liability claim involving a defectively designed product are:

  1. Defendant was the manufacturer or supplier of the product;
  2. Product possessed a defect in its design;
  3. Defect in design existed at the time it left the defendant's possession;
  4. Defect in design was the cause of injury to the plaintiff; and
  5. Plaintiff's injury resulted from a use of the product that was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant.

A product is defective in design if it fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner.  A product design is also considered defective if there is a risk of danger inherent in the product’s design which outweighs the benefits of that design such as a drug that injures a consumer taking the drug to remedy a health issue and not to be contract more severe health problems by the use of the remedy.

Failure to Provide Consumer of Product with Adequate Warnings

The essential elements of a claim based upon an alleged defect from failure to warn are:

  • Defendant was the manufacturer of the product;
  • Product was defective;
  • Product defect was a cause of injury to the plaintiffs; and
  • Plaintiff's injury resulted from a use of the product that was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant.

A product is defective if the use of the product in a manner that is reasonably foreseeable by the defendant involves a substantial danger that would not be readily recognized by the ordinary consumer of that product and the manufacturer knows or should have known of the danger, but fails to give the consumer adequate warning of that danger.   A manufacturer has a duty to provide consumers of his product with an adequate warning of any potential risks or side effects of the foreseeable use of the product, and which are known or knowable in light of the generally recognized and prevailing best scientific and medical knowledge at the time of the product’s manufacture and distribution.  In the case of a dangerous or defective prescription drug, that warning must have been given to the prescribing physician.

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