Product Liability Law

Product Liability Law and the Reasonable Design Alternative Test

Product Liability Lawyers

In many product liability cases, the plaintiff alleges that a design defect was responsible for the injuries incurred. For example, in a product liability case alleging that a car’s gas tank exploded in rear-end collisions, the plaintiff would allege that the car was defectively designed. In these types of cases, some courts have established a “reasonable design alternative” test. Under this test, a product is defective in design when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design by the seller or other distributor and the omission of the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe.

Under the reasonable design alternative test, the plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating the existence of an alternative design at the time the manufacturer designed the product. The test does not, however; require the plaintiff to produce a prototype in order to make out a design defect case. Instead, qualified expert testimony on the issue suffices, even though an expert has produced no prototype, if it reasonably supports the conclusion that a reasonable alternative design could have been practically adopted at the time of sale. In addition, other products already available on the market that serves the same or very similar function at lower risk and at comparable cost may serve as reasonable alternatives to the product in question.

State Law

How a plaintiff goes about establishing a reasonable alternative design varies from state to state. In some states, a plaintiff can meet the requirements of the test by introducing evidence that the product in question failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. Other states merely require plaintiffs to introduce evidence that the product’s design proximately caused the injury and put the burden on the defendant to prove that on balance, the benefits of the challenged design outweigh the risk of danger inherent in the design.

Critics of the reasonable design alternative test argue that the test removes the element of strict liability from the law of product liability, thus limiting consumers’ ability to recover against manufacturers. In jurisdictions that have not adopted the reasonable alternative design test, plaintiffs only need to show that the injury-causing product was unsafe or unfit for its intended or foreseeable use at the time it left the manufacturer’s control and that the injuries sustained arose from the unsafe or unfit condition of the product. Proponents of the test claim that increasing plaintiffs’ burden of proof in product liability actions will limit frivolous suits against manufacturers.

Breast Implant Litigation

Silicone breast implants were developed in the 1960s. They have been used for breast reconstruction (about 15 percent of implant procedures, as estimated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and breast enhancement (about 85 percent of implant procedures, as estimated by the FDA).

FDA regulation of dietary supplements

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 DSHEA gave the FDA authority to establish specific standards for dietary supplements. The law provides that a dietary supplement is adulterated if it or any of its ingredients poses a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury when used as directed.

Product Liability Law and the Reasonable Design Alternative Test

In many product liability cases, the plaintiff alleges that a design defect was responsible for the injuries incurred. For example, in a product liability case alleging that a car’s gas tank exploded in rear-end collisions, the plaintiff would allege that the car was defectively designed. In these types of cases, some courts have established a “reasonable design alternative” test. Under this test, a product is defective in design when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design by the seller or other distributor and the omission of the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe.

Protective Orders in Drug Product Liability Litigation

After a drug product liability lawsuit is filed, both the plaintiff (the person suing) and the defendant (the person or company being sued) engage in a process called discovery. The purpose of discovery is to allow a party to learn more about the important facts of the case before trial and the other party’s evidence. The scope of discovery is very broad. It covers any information relevant to the case or which may lead to relevant evidence. Privileged information and the work product of the opposing party’s lawyer (the lawyer’s written observations, theories, opinions, and research) do not have to be disclosed. Privileged information includes oral and written communications between an attorney and his/her client.

Statutes of Limitations and Statutes of Repose

Products liability law deals with personal injuries and property damages caused by defective products. Statutes of limitations and statutes of repose set time limits for filing lawsuits. A lawsuit filed after the period set out in the statute of limitations or the statute of repose is barred and will be dismissed by the court. It is important to check with an attorney to determine the time limit for filing a lawsuit if you have been injured or a defective product has damaged your property.

Have you or a loved one has been injured by another person, talk with an experienced Indianapolis, IN personal injury lawyer from Ward & Ward Law Firm about your legal options. Contact us today!


Client Review

"I worked with and have known Ward & Ward Law Firm for over 25 years—simply the best personal injury lawyers!!!! Calls every year on my birthday"
Kathy C"
Client Review