Washington and Spokane Products Liability Law- strict liability is a form of liability where a defendant is liable for "all" damage he has caused.
Unlike negligence, no finding of a duty or breach of the duty of reasonable care is necessary to find a defendant liable for damages under strict liability. Although "duty" and "breach of duty" need not be established, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant was the cause in fact and the proximate cause of damage, similar to negligence.
Comment- The underlying principle behind strict liability is that people who engage in certain types of activities should be forced to "insure" others against all damage that results from that activity.
Types of activities governed by strict liability
Strict liability is applicable to damage arising from certain types of activities, including: products liability, wild animals, and extremely hazardous activity.
A. Spokane Products Liability - products liability arises from damage caused by defective products.
Types of products liability- product liability can be categorized according to the source of defect.
a. manufacturing defects- a manufacturing defect is a product defect that results from a manufacturer failing to make a product according to the manufacturer’s own design specifications.
Example- A car is designed with an air bag, but the air bag fails to inflate during an accident because it was improperly installed. As a result of the failure, the driver hits his head on the dashboard of the car and is injured. A merchant of the car is liable for damage caused by the failure (e.g., the manufacturer and/or the distributor of the car).
b. design defects- a design defect results when the design specifications chosen by the manufacturer were chosen improperly. Spokane products liability and Washington strict liability allow recovery for design defects as well.
Example- A car was designed with an air bag that has too much explosive power. As a result, the driver is injured by the air bag when it deploys during an accident.
Factors in determining if a design is defective include:
i. The likelihood that a product will cause injury
ii. The probable seriousness of the injury
iii. Availability of alternative product design that would not impair the product usefulness, or would not make the product prohibitively expensive so as to lose its utility.
Example- A car was designed with an air bag that has a very high explosive force. As a result, the driver is injured by the air bag when it deploys during an accident. To determine if, in fact, the air bag was designed defectively (i.e., the bag deployed with too much force), a court must consider whether reducing the explosiveness would render the air bag ineffective. If reducing the explosiveness would result in the air bag's inability to stop the driver from hitting the dashboard, then despite the injury caused by the air bag, its design was not defective and the manufacturer would not be liable for the driver's injury.
Even if a product is found not to contain a design defect, suitable warning must be given for dangers that are not obvious.
Example (continued from previous example)- If it is determined that the air bag deployed no more explosively than necessary in order to be effective (i.e., it is not possible to make the product safer), to avoid liability, the manufacturer of the car should include a warning about the dangers of the explosion, perhaps with a sticker on the dashboard.
When is products liability applicable? In Spokane products liability litigation, a seller of products is strictly liable for all damage resulting from design defects or manufacturing defects if:
1. The seller of the product is a merchant that regularly engages in the sale of the product or similar products. (Note that to be regarded as a merchant, the seller must regularly sell the goods that cause the injury), and
2. The injured person was using the product in a foreseeable manner (i.e., for its intended use or a foreseeable misuse), and
3. The defect must have existed at the time the product was in the possession of the manufacturer.
Comment for Washington and Spokane Products liability- Strict liability is one cause of action for which a seller of a product can be held liable. Recall liability may also be established under other causes of actions (e.g., negligence and breach of warranty). Each of these causes of action has different requirements to establish liability.
Comment- The notion that merchants should be liable for damages resulting from product liability, regardless of whether negligence has occurred, is troubling to many.
One rationale for this policy is that it is inefficient to have a plaintiff (or multiple plaintiffs) independently prove (in separate lawsuits) that the technology behind the product is not reasonably safe, as would be required by negligence law. Consequently, this policy assumes that the merchant is in a position to charge an appropriate price for his product such that he can pay for the injuries caused by the product or pay for research necessary to make the product safe.
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