Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Design defects and products liability.

Practice point:  For purposes of imposing products liability, the standard is whether, if the design defect were known at the time of manufacture, a reasonable person would conclude that the product's utility did not outweigh the risk inherent in marketing a product designed in that manner.

An interlock on a table saw, which would prevent the saw's operation without the guard in place, could make the saw unusable for certain cuts, thereby impairing its functionality.  So, a theory of liability based upon an allegation that the saw should have been designed with an interlock has been explicitly rejected as a matter of law.

Student note:  Application of the design defect standard demands an inquiry into such factors as (1) the product's utility to the public as a whole; (2) its utility to the individual user;  (3) the likelihood that the product will cause injury; (4) the availability of a safer design; (5) the possibility of designing and manufacturing the product so that it is safer but remains functional and reasonably priced; (6) the degree of awareness of the product's potential danger that can reasonablly be attributed to the injured user; and (7) the manufacturer's ability to spread the cost of any safety-related design changes. Liability attaches when an analysis of these factors leads one to conclude that the utility of the product did not outweigh the risk inherent in marketing it.

Case:  Chavez v. Delta Intl. Mach. Corp., NY Slip Op 05903 (2d Dept. 2015)

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow's issue:  An action alleging negligent supervision in a gym class.