Product liability claims arise when a manufacturer or seller puts a defective product in the hands of a consumer. A product liability claim can be based on a manufacturing defect. A manufacturing defect occurs when there is a mistake in the manufacturing process. That is, the product does not turn out the way the manufacturer planned. A manufacturing defect can occur when one item is made incorrectly, such as a child carrier that is missing a latch mechanism, or when all items of one type are made incorrectly, such as when tires are manufactured with inferior materials.
Because product liability for manufacturing defect is based on a strict liability, or no fault, theory, a consumer does not have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent in order to recover in a manufacturing defect case. This means that a manufacturer can take the utmost care in manufacturing and quality checking the products manufactured and still be liable if even one product is produced with a defect. Some examples of manufacturing defects that have led to product liability cases are tires with tread separation defects, exploding soda bottles, and collapsing chairs.
Elimination of Strict Liability
Some states have modified their product liability laws to eliminate strict liability for manufacturing defects. The modifications have been made based on a theory that it is unfair to hold a diligent manufacturer strictly liable when all reasonable steps have been taken to avoid producing defective products. In those states, plaintiffs must proceed on either a negligence or breach of warranty theory in order to recover.
To succeed in a manufacturing defect product liability action under a strict liability theory, the plaintiff must show three things:
- that the product was defective
- that it was defective at the time it left the manufacturer’s or seller’s control
- that the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries
To succeed in a manufacturing defect product liability action under a negligence theory, the plaintiff must also prove that the manufacturer or seller owed a duty to the plaintiff to exercise reasonable care in manufacturing or selling a product and that the manufacturer or seller breached that duty. Finally, to succeed under a breach of warranty theory, plaintiffs much show that the manufacturer or seller violated either an express warranty or that the Uniform Commercial Code’s implied warranties of merchantability or fitness were breached.
Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.