There are many sources of product liability law. The type of law that applies to a particular product liability case often involves the interaction between federal guidelines, state law and prior cases. The influence of the Model Uniform Product Liability Act and the Restatement of Torts also play a large role in product liability litigation.
Model Uniform Product Liability Act
There is no comprehensive product liability law in the United States, but the Model Uniform Product Liability Act comes close. The United States Department of Commerce first published the Model Act in 1979, but its use by states is voluntary. States can adopt the Model Act entirely or in part.
The act establishes basic standards of responsibility for manufacturers and sellers. It also provides clauses concerning post-manufacturing modifications of products, comparative fault of the parties and damages, among other things.
It is important to remember that the Model Act sometimes adopts the most restrictive laws of certain jurisdictions, which often results in varying restrictions on punitive damages. States can also modify the Model Act during legislative adoption and judicial application of the law, so it is not safe to assume that two states will approach a product liability case in the same way.
Restatement Third, Torts: Product Liability
Restatements of Law are legal treatises published by the American Law Institute, which is an organization of legal scholars. Restatements are summaries or codification of case law concerning particular subjects.
Generally, Restatements of Law distill the legal trends regarding a particular legal area into principles. There are times, however, when the restatements depart from common law trends to reflect where scholars believe the law should go.
The most current Restatements of Law concerning product liability were issued in 1998. It is important to remember that Restatements of Law do not have the force of law, but they are highly respected and influential with courts.
Uniform Commercial Code
In addition to publishing the Restatements of Law, the American Law Institute works with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws to produce the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).
The UCC is a model code concerning commercial law that has been adopted by all states in some form. The UCC sections most relevant to product liability concern warranties regarding the merchantability of goods. The warranty of merchantability is an implied part of contract law essentially stating that a product conforms to a buyer's reasonable expectations.
Other Federal Laws
Many federal laws concern the safety of products during manufacturing and use. Although violation of these federal laws usually does not give rise to a civil lawsuit, federal regulations can be used to show the existence of a standard of care and the violation thereof.
The Consumer Product Safety Act provides for manufacturer recalls of dangerous products and the Occupational Safety and Health Act allows federal regulators to ban the use of dangerous industrial products that may harm workers. Demonstrating that a defendant violated these laws can often bolster an allegation of negligence in a civil case, but is not dispositive of the outcome of such a case.
State Product Liability Laws
Each state's product liability law varies depending on the unique interplay of UCC adoption and case history. It is important to note that the product liability law applied to a particular case also depends on where the case is filed and whether either party makes a compelling argument for the use of a particular set of laws or precedents.
One of the primary relevant factors in state product liability law is the varying statutes of limitations for claims. There are many situations in which a product liability claim can be filed in two states, but the case would be considered too old to be litigated in one of the states.
A National Product Liability Litigation Firm
The product liability attorneys at Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, P.C., have successfully litigated product liability claims throughout the country. Humphrey Farrington is the largest personal injury litigation firm in the Kansas City area and its attorneys have secured some of the biggest verdicts and settlements in the country.
If you have a question regarding the application of product liability law to your case, contact us online or call 888-353-0491. Our initial consultations are free, and our attorneys routinely fly to meet out-of-state clients.