Product liability

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The law of product liability is concerned with the circumstances in which the manufacturer, or supplier, of a defective product can be compelled to compensate a person who is harmed or injured by that product. Product liability is a species of Tort law, because in general the supplier and the purchaser will not have a contract.

One of the most obvious statements of product liability comes from the infamous donoghue v stevenson (1932). This was a tort case because the woman who allegedly became ill after consuming the dead snail was the one who purchased the ginger beer. So, in general, liability for defective products is governed by the ordinary law of Negligence. However, the case law suggests that courts expect a high level of responsibility on the parts of manufacturers. If a manufacturer attempts to defeat a negligence claim by showing that, despite what the claimant alleges, it took reasonable care in the production or handling of its product, it will be expected to produce evidence to that effect. Under the consumer protection act (1987) the manufacturer's obligations are even more stringent, amounting essentially to Strict liability.

The Consumer Protection Act is somewhat more limited in scope that the law of negligence so, despite its no-fault provisions, there will be occasions where a claim in negligence is still worth pursuing.

Note that s.5 of the unfair contract terms act (1977) provides that liability for personal injury resulting from defective consumer products cannot be excluded by contract or notice.

-- . - 15 Jan 2004