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Products liability theory: Part I

Any manufacturer who knowingly or negligently puts a defective product on the market can be found liable for products liability if a consumer suffers from any injury after consuming the product. The three qualifying factors that any court in Montana investigates while determining a case for products liability are:

  • The consumer buys the product of the manufacturer.
  • The consumer suffers from an injury after consuming the product.
  • The injury was due to the negligence of the manufacturer.

Products liability is taken from the common law principle of negligence under tort law. Under similar circumstances, the court would look into a five-pronged test in order to determine if the manufacturer is liable for products liability on the grounds of negligence as alleged by the consumer's attorneys. First, the manufacturer owes a duty of care to the customer who purchased the product. In many cases, it is often alleged that the consumer has relied on the manufacturer's reputation and goodwill before deciding to purchase the product. Standards of care are also often considered in order to prove negligence in such cases.

Second, the negligence has to be proved. In order to prove negligence, the consumer and the consumer's attorney must prove that the manufacturer has breached the duty of care that is always owed to the consumer. Third, it must be proved that the negligence of the manufacturer led to the consumer's injury and damage. The standard of "reasonable foreseeability" is often used in such cases. Thus, it must be proved in court that any reasonable man would be able to foresee that the negligence of the manufacturer could result in the particular damage to the consumer.

Fourth, the consumer's injury must have occurred as a direct result of negligence. The relationship between the injury and the negligence is often tested by using various medical records and eyewitness accounts. Finally, and perhaps the most important thing that the court examines before making a decision, is the extent and actual damage of the injury. That is the most vital point in any lawsuit because it drives the monetary and pecuniary compensation to which the consumer is entitled.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Legal basis for liability in products cases," Accessed on June 19, 2015

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