Product Failure and Liability

Product failure and liability are terms that encompass the idea that producers are responsible for any effects their product may have on their consumers. Although they are responsible for the benefits, they are also considered liable for any injury or property damage caused by their product. Often, the damage is attributed in part to the failure of the consumer to use the product as advertised, though since the producers are expected to know the most about their own product, they are typically more responsible for the safety and well-being of their customers, and must therefore enact measures to prevent such a situation from occurring. This is called strict liability, and forces the producer to more carefully examine what effect their product has on their consumers.

There are three areas of possible production failure that are investigated in product liability lawsuits: design failure, manufacturing failure, and failure to warn. Although a design failure is possible, it is the least common cause of injury, as most corporations invest years of research before ever allowing a product to reach the market. A manufacturing failure is also an unlikely culprit, though there have been cases in which the design of a product was not properly translated into a correctly manufactured product, holding the company liable for the defective product.

The most common result of a product failure and liability lawsuit is that the company failed to warn the customer of the dangers of possible uses for their product. The producer is expected to give the consumer as much warning as possible about the consequences of using their product, as is often found in medical advertisements, in which all possible side effects of the medication must be listed. Often, products provide warnings that may seem obvious or unnecessary, but must be included to prevent lawsuits from those who would irresponsibly misuse the product.

There are many possible outcomes that may result from a product liability lawsuit; occasionally, a consumer will be solely responsible for their own negligence, in which case they must pay for their own damages, and the producer is not required to take any action. In cases in which the producer is held liable, the simplest solution is to pay the customer for damages and injury with a sum decided upon by a third party, such as a judge. However, cases often become more complicated when a product poses a danger to more than just the one customer, and the incident is likely to repeat itself. This risk often leads to the recall of the offending product from the market and an increase in the efforts to improve the product.


"Products Liability." http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/products_liability (accessed April 22, 2010).