Duties Owed and Not Owed: Understanding a Product Liability Defense

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Product Liability

For a plaintiff to prove that a company was liable for a defect, they must demonstrate that the manufacturer in question had a duty to ensure the consumer’s safety. On the surface this may seem easy to prove, yet many products are by their nature unsafe, so the “duty to safety” is complicated.

Naturally Unsafe Products

When developing a consumer product, designers and manufacturers must ensure that it is safe for its intended use. However, some products will automatically be dangerous regardless of the number of built-in safety measures, such as:

  • Cars
  • Saws
  • Knives
  • Wood furnaces
  • Ladders

Many products that people use on a daily basis have a massive capacity for injury if misused. Manufacturers go out of their way to closely and vigorously instruct users on  the safest way to use a tool or device.

Still, misuses are common, no matter the product and measures taken by the manufacturer.

The Limits of Duty

As we’ve written before, the duty to discourage misuse is extensive. You may include warnings, instructions, and even design the product to deter misuse. When you take every foreseeable action to prevent misuse, yet a person still uses the device in a way you specifically discouraged, the manufacturer should not be held responsible. Unfortunately, in some cases, manufacturers can still be the target of product liability litigation even when a product is misused by the consumer. Despite plaintiffs’ claims, not every accident is the manufacturer’s fault. This is why it is critical to engage a knowledgeable and experienced product liability attorney who can help you defend against such specious claims.