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The tort of product liability is the section of the law that holds manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers responsible for any injuries that are caused by the products that they make available in the market. According to tradition, this segment of the law is limited to tangible personal belongings, which means that injuries as a result of services provided may not covered. The implication is that, although any of the enterprises involved in the distribution of the sunglasses that injured Hiller may be held liable for the loss of his eye, Playex bears the greatest responsibility. This is because apart from Playex, the rest were service providers who may not have been aware of the specifications of the product. Nevertheless, whenever a product injures an individual as a result of a fault in its manufacture or design, any of the commercial party involved in its sale or distribution may be held liable for that injury. This is particularly so in when manufacturer had failed to instruct or warn about the danger. Such a tort is, in some instances, grounded on negligence. Tort of this nature relies on the law which allows imposition of liability even when negligence or intent to injure hasn’t been established. This law is referred to as strict products liability. The philosophy of strict products liability allows the victims who have been injured by a product to sue for damages, regardless of the amount of care taken by the manufacturer (Blackman, 2002).
In some jurisdiction, the degree of danger does not matter; any exposure to a chance of injury gives rise to a claim of product liability. However, there are special defenses that apply to the tort of product liability. For instance, in an increasing number of states, a fluctuation in the codification of limitations prevents complainants from suing for injuries caused by a defective product. This is usually the case if a specified duration of time had passed since the commodity was marketed, no matter when the victim was injured. Nevertheless, some states disregard this view on the basis that such a statute may subsequently prevent damage recovery in several instances (Miller et al, 2010). Critics of these statutes argue that it would be beneficial to allow the manufacturer to claim product misuse in his defense. Such a defense would, in fact, be logical, especially when a victim is injured while using the product in a manner that a reasonable manufacturer could not anticipate at the time of the injury. Moreover, a manufacturer may indicate that he notified of the danger, and prove that it was the victim who failed to read and abide by the regulations of use. If it is demonstrated that harm was avoidable through complying with the manufacturer’s advice, the accuser may fail to recover damages. In the case of Hiller against Playex, the baseball team was not misusing the sunglasses, and, in fact, coach Beck had avoided providing the team with glasses before he was Playex’s captivating advertisement. Consequently, the manufacturer’s argument of misuse may not convince the jury into dismissing the case.
Types of Liability
In most instances, negligence, breach of warranty, consumer protection, and strict liability are some of the claims that make a logical connection with product liability. Product liability statutes are mainly enacted by the states, and; therefore, they present wide variations in application. Every claim of product liability is constituted through different elements, and these elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt for the claim to be successful.
There are three types of claims for product liability; manufacturing defect, design defect, and marketing defects. Product liabilities lack complete and independent ground for legal claims in most jurisdictions. Nevertheless, by elaborating the three main types of liabilities, useful elements that can help build a case are realized. For example, manufacturing defects can be suggested to result from shoddy workmanship or utilization of poor-quality materials. Furthermore, manufacturing defects arise from defects in designing, where the blueprint proves useless regardless of the care taken during the manufacturing process. Poorly designed products fail to satisfy their ordinary customers’ expectations of what constitutes safety in a product. Moreover, poor designs lead to a situation whereby the risks outweigh the benefits. On realizing that the products are defective, the manufacturer is expected to warn of inherent and non-obvious dangers as such action would mitigate the risk of injury (Lawrence, 2002). Additionally, the manufacturer is required inform the consumers that risks are present, irrespective of the designing and manufacturing process. Playex gave assurances of how effective the sun glasses are without signaling the possibility of danger if the glasses are used in a vigorous activity. Furthermore, the coach had trusted that, according to the Playex’s advertisements, the glasses would reduce the effects a glaring sun, but this was not the case.
Breach of Warranty
A warranty is a statement by a manufacturer or marketer regarding a product being exchanged in a commercial dealing. Warranty claims are made when there was an agreement between the victim and the seller or manufacturer expressed in plain English. This suggests that they must be conducting business directly because a third party may distort the statements expressed in the warranty (Miller et al, 2010). Product liability claims involving a breach of warranty are subdivided into three: the breach of express warranty, the breach of implied warranty on merchantability, and breach of implied warranty on fitness of a product for the intended purpose. The claim by coach Beck over the injury caused by Playex's sunglasses may be of the form of implied warranty of product fitness. Claims on express warranty focus on expressed statements by a seller or manufacturer regarding the product. Implied warranties cover the expectations that are common with every product, unless the manufacturer disclaims these expectations.
Basically, a negligence claim necessitates the proof of a duty owed as well as a disregard of such a duty (Eric, 2007). Negligence concepts have evolved into dealing with specific situations such as manufacturer’s violation of regulations, a situation which requires proof of duty and its breach as well as negligence under some situations. In proving breach of duty, the jury compares the standards of a product with those that a reasonable manufacturer would apply. It, therefore, enquires whether a reasonable manufacturer would have made the product: if he would not make it, then the manufacturer is proved to have breached his duty. The plaintiff, in this case, Hiller, need to prove that his injury resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.
Rather than focusing on manufacturer’s negligence, claims of strict liability focus on the commodity itself. As such, strict liability stipulates that the manufacturer is, at all times, held liable whenever a defective product injures a consumer, even in situations where the manufacturer was careful to avoid defects in the product. With negligence, however, the complainant will have to prove that the accused party’s conduct was below the anticipated standard of attention. In a scenario where the entire industry openly disregards standards in its conduct, then the accuser may fail to recover the damages, no matter the severity of the injuries (Eric, 2007). This is because, despite the fact that the defendant’s behavior caused resulted into injuries, it did not simply amount into negligence. In the contemporary setting, the increasing intricacy of injuries, medical care, and the products makes it difficult to get an expert's advice with regard to conduct of manufacture, the likelihood of the breach, and the causation of injury.
During the 1950s, several American courts of justice stopped requiring a consumer plaintiff to prove his claim of manufacturer negligence irrespective of the severity of his injury. The courts began the search for facts in cases which could be characterized it terms of implied or expressed warranty from a manufacturer to a consumer. They began implementing the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur with the aim of reducing the burden that a plaintiff goes through while proofing negligence. Later, the reduction in the plaintiff’s burden resulted into fictions which increased legal strains. From the 1960s, American states began to re-assert the philosophy of strict liability for defective products (Lawrence, 2002).
A Product Liability Suit
As pointed out earlier, during the formulation of a products liability suit, a plaintiff should sue all the entities that help in placing an unreasonably defective commodity in the market. This is because these entities have profited from negligence and, therefore, should be responsible for any damage that results from negligence. In order to justify a case before the jury, a consumer must indicate that the injury was caused by defects in the product. As such, Hiller would be required to indicate that it was indeed a glass fragment that wounded him in the eye. This would then indicate that the product was either inappropriate for use in such activities, or their design had been defective. By proving that the design was defective, Hiller would then have helped to indicate that the entire category of the sunglasses was unreasonably dangerous by the time they left the factory. Since their condition remained unaltered during the distribution, Hiller will then have implicated the manufacturer, especially due to his failure to convey the appropriate warnings. Nevertheless, had safety standards been prioritized in the design of the product, warning would have been unnecessary (Miller et al, 2010).
Had this incidence occurred in 1951, Hiller would have found it difficult to prove that the manufacturer neglected his duty. This is because, in the early 1950s, a consumer plaintiff was required to prove his claim of manufacturer negligence irrespective of the severity of his injury. During that time, corporations were influential, and it was difficult to incriminate their managements. Since then, however, there have been achievements in curbing their power. By 1981, there has been social equity, where everyone is accorded relatively the same status under the law. This means that had Hiller been injured in 1981, the jury would have regarded the two adversaries as equal parties (Miller et al, 2010). Although this was a remarkable improvement, Playex would still have been at an advantage because it could have had afforded the best legal representation of the time. Therefore, despite having a leveled playground, Hiller would still have found it difficult to defeat the bigger opponent. In the contemporary settings, a plaintiff’s burden of proving a claim has been reduced. The doctrine of strict liability has been re-asserted, and this increases the possibility of a plaintiff winning the case through the reduction of the burden of prove.
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