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Products Liability
Quinnipiac University School of Law
Gilles, Stephen G.


Whose behavior needs to be changed to reduce the severity of accidents in the home?
Manufacturers have defense for ill-advised use
Would zero liability influence consumer’s actions?
1) Superior knowledge of the risks
2) Risk of burden in liability

Agostino v Rockwell Manufacturing Co., (Penn – 1975) p32
One who sells a product is strictly liable for injuries caused by its product, if
there has not been a substantial change in the condition since it was sold.
Π didn’t actually see the guard position, but jury could make the determination
on fact that there was a defective condition at time of sale.

1) negligence
2) misrepresentation
3) Strict Liability



Winterbottom v Wright (1842)
Stagecoach manufacturer sued by injured driver
Court held there is no liability in the case, or else everyone would sue!
Privity Rule: Can’t maintain an action against a remote seller

Huset v JI Case Threshing Mach Co (1903) – p41
Three exceptions to privity rule
1) Negligence that is imminently dangerous
2) property owner’s negligence in inviting someone
to use a defective appliance
3) Providing a defective article known to be dangerous

Start of Modern Law

D.Peck, Decision at Law – p42
Discussion of procedural posture of McPherson…

McPherson v. Buick Motor Co. – p47
No privity requirement now…only when it is a “thing of great
Danger” that puts life and limb in peril
Buick could test tires…they should have greater responsibility

Manufacturing Process

Jenkins v General Motor Corp – p51
Π said a bolt came out and caused accident
Δ said that the bolt came out b/c of accident
Battle of the experts – jury can decide on negligence
The “Corvair” case…it was a dangerous automobile
Car is not supposed to crash…this set up SL for manufacturers

Hand Theory Discussion p56
Companies consider the cost of safety in their business model

Ford Motor Co v Zahn – p58
Ford didn’t see big risks in ashtrays…they expect snagged sweaters
Ct says the Liability is not limited to cut fingers, this accident
Should have been considered by the manufacturer
Manufacturers have a duty of reasonable care to prevent defective
conditions in the manufacturing process
The ashtray didn’t confirm with their own standards
Typical Hand case…wouldn’t cost much to check ashtray
Probability of injury was high, hover, liability low!

Design Process: Product Concept

Metzgar v Playschool Inc (1994) – p62
Court should not decide as a matter of law that a product’s utility
Outweighs its risks. Π’s child chocked on a block. Statistics sho

e speaker’s knowledge of falsity or ignorance of truth
5) his intent that it should be acted upon
6) ignorance of it falsity by listener
7) the latter’s reliance on the statement
8) his right to rely upon it
9) his consequential damage

Cooper v RJ Reynolds (1956) – p78
Cig company not responsible for lung caner when the decedent
First saw ads the Camels were “healthful” and “not damaging to
Repertory system” 2-3 years before his death

Tetuan v AH Robins Co. (1987) – p78
Dalkon Shield company responsible to patient, who relied on
Physician who relied on company’s misrepresentation of it
Dangerous IUD product.

First Nat’l Bank v Brooks Farm (1990) – p79
Disclaimers against liability in fraud are against public policy

Negligent Misrepresentation
Most negligent misrepresentation cases involve retailers

Pabon v Hackensack Auto Sales, Inc. (NJ – 1960) – p80
Δ car retailer was negligent of misrepresenting a product when π
Brought the new car to him 3 times complaining about a clicking
sound, and service manager told him not to worry, it would wear out.