Recovery in Strict Products Liability for Product Damage Alone

Defective Products

Products liability is the area of the law that deals with injuries and property damage caused by defective products. A product is considered defective if it has a design or manufacturing flaw. If the product lacks proper instructions or lacks sufficient warnings about any dangers associated with its use, a product can also be considered defective.

Strict Products Liability

Strict products liability, also called strict liability in tort, is a legal doctrine that imposes liability for personal injury or property damage caused by defective products. The manufacturer, seller or distributor of such products is held responsible, without regard to fault, if the product damages property or injures a person who uses the product.

Extension of Strict Products Liability

The strict liability doctrine has been extended to cover situations where the defective product damaged other property. In some states, bystanders have been allowed recovery for emotional distress associated with an event in which a defective product caused personal injuries or death. Some courts have permitted recovery for the cost of repairs to the defective product when personal injuries or damage to other property also occurred.

Some States Permit Recovery for Product Damage Alone

Some states, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Ohio, have allowed the consumer to recover where the only damage caused by the defect was to the product itself. These courts have held that the reasons underlying the adoption of the strict product liability doctrine also apply to product damage alone. Strict products liability is based on the concept that the manufacturer is primarily responsible for the defective product. Consequently, the manufacturer should bear the cost of any injuries. The manufacturer, the seller, and the distributor are in a better position to bear such costs than the injured consumer, and these entities can spread the risk of loss to the general public. Also, placing responsibility on the manufacturer will encourage the production of safer products and will discourage sellers and distributors from marketing defective products. In some cases, courts have allowed recovery for damage to the defective product when the damage occurred in a catastrophic manner that posed an unreasonable risk of injury to persons or other property.

Other States Deny Recovery for Product Damage Alone

Numerous states, including California, New York, Illinois, and Arizona, have denied recovery where the only damage caused by the defect was to the product itself. Some courts in these states have reasoned that warranty theories applied to such cases instead of strict products liability. Other courts have held that strict products liability should not be applied where commercial transactions are involved.

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