What is product liability?

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2020 | Personal Injury |

Product liability is the area of law in Ohio from which businesses could be liable for injuries that result from defective products. In the old days, people had less to do, and they lived less complex lives. If you bought, say, a sword, you probably purchased it from the local blacksmith shop. Buyers and sellers tend to have better information about each other. According to the Legal Information Institute, this is called information symmetry. This means that if the old blacksmith did bad work, you probably knew about it and took your business to a new blacksmith. 

The controlling legal concept was privity, which means the contract cannot confer rights or oppose any obligations. As a result, the only person who could sue over an injury caused by product was the person who actually purchased it. In other words, it was tough being an innocent bystander. Under privity, you could only sue the party with whom you made the contract. But what about today? Look at your smartphone. There may be a dozen companies involved in the manufacture of your phone. So, if something happens, do you sue your carrier, the manufacturer or a factory subcontracting company that actually built the defective part? This more complex world has led to the new protections for buyers through consumer protection laws and increased the opportunity to bring lawsuits. 

This allows you to bring in negligence lawsuits. In order to prove your case, you must show that the manufacturers’ actions fell below the duty of care to the customers. In the past, many courts held that companies found following standard industry practices were meeting their duty of care. So the company always won, even if the standard industry practices were ill conceived or just plain stupid. To address these problems, the courts developed a new type of  law based on strict liability. Under strict liability, the company is liable if the product is defective, even if the company was not negligent. 


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