So what does the term ‘product liability’ actually mean?
The term product liability means that a product that’s on the market has a defect in it that causes injuries or death to people. And what that means is that, a product isn’t either designed or it’s incorrectly manufactured. So that when it reaches the market, it is defective and it causes an injury or the death to someone.
In California, we use what’s called the Reasonable Consumer Expectation Test, which says that, if a product doesn’t behave or function like a reasonable consumer would expect it to have worked, then that product has a defect in it. And under law, a plaintiff or the heirs of someone who’s died, can bring an action against the manufacturer, seller or distributor of that product.
Other cases that involved very technical products might use a different test called the Risk-Utility Test. And in those types of cases where the product is very scientific or there’s a lot of technology to it, that a reasonable juror wouldn’t understand, the court uses some balancing factors. It’s the risk of the product causing harm versus the utility that that product provides to society. And they weigh those things against each other to determine whether or not that product is defective. So, that’s generally what we mean in California by a defective product.