Saturday, August 15, 2020

Recent law review article compares cost-benefit analysis and consumer expectation as the tests for determining design defects

In his article An Essay on the Quieting of Products Liability Law, 105 Cornell Law Review 101 (2020), Aaron D Twerski, one of the reporters of the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability, compares the difference between the risk-utility test applied in most states (which relies on having the plaintiff prove a "reasonable alternative design (RAD)") and the consumer expectations test followed in 17 jurisdictions to determine if a product has a design defect.   He concludes that, regardless of the approach used, the vast majority of cases include proof of a RAD.

Twerski theorizes that using proof of a RAD: 1) tells “a far more compelling story” than consumer expectations; 2) relates to fault which, in turn, leads to higher damage awards; 3) may be needed as a substitute if a judge denies a “consumer expectations” instruction, and 4) supports the claim that a product disappoints consumer expectations.  

For a summary of the article go here.

California appellate court finds that Amazon can be sued for products liability

In an important new decision, a California state appellate court recently held that Amazon is subject to product liability claims for defective goods sold on its website by third-party vendors. The case is called Bolger v. Amazon and you can read the opinion here.

The key to why this is important is that last phrase: "third party vendors."  Amazon did not manufacture or retail the product.  It merely provided a space for the retailer to "connect" with its buyers.  For that reason, Amazon argued that it was not part of the chain of distribution, as that concept is typically used in products liability cases.  But the court held that “Whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer.”

This case follows the first successful product liability case against Amazon (in Pennsylvania) which was then appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and remanded to Pennsylvania Supreme Court this past June.  That case is now pending.

For more on Bolger v. Amazon, go to Courthouse News Service, LawStreet, and the ABA Journal.

USA Today publishes op-ed on why blanket COVID-19 liability immunity is not a good idea.

USA Today publishes Op-Ed on why blanket COVID-19 liability immunity is not a good idea. You can read the article here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

More on the issue of whether businesses and other institutions should be immune for liability related to Covid-19

During the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion on whether it would be a good idea to grant immunity or to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to recover for injuries suffered when the defendant's negligence causes the plaintiff to catch the Covid-19 virus.  I have posted articles about it here, here, here and here.

NPR has the latest here.