Defenses to Claims of Products Liability

The primary defense in products liability litigation is simply that the product was not defective and/or the actors not negligent. To support this position the manufacturer, developer, or vendor must show that he acted reasonably and that, in light of all of the technical supportive data, the product was not unreasonably dangerous to the consuming public.

A second defense available is that, even if the product was defective, the defect in the product in no way caused or contributed to the injury which the consumer claims.

As mentioned previously, under products liability law, a key element to the legal analysis is an investigation of duties and responsibilities of all the parties to the sale. Thus the defending party can successfully maintain a defense in the event the consumer misuses the product or materially alters its characteristics or specifications thereby rendering the product defective, or fails to adhere to the warnings and/or instructions provided with the product. A consumer cannot haphazardly use or misuse a product and not suffer the legal consequences should that misuse or haphazard use cause his injury.

Lastly, there exists the defense that the consumer was a “sophisticated” consumer, who assumed the risk inherent with the use of a particular product. Under an “assumption of the risk” defense, the provider of the product must show that the consumer “voluntarily and unreasonably proceeded to encounter a known danger” and, further, “proceeded unreasonably to use the product after discovering and becoming aware of the danger.”