The courts are increasingly holding sellers responsible for the safety of their products. The US courts generally hold that producer of a product is for any product defect that causes injury in the course of normal use. Liability can even result if a court or a jury decides that a product's design, construction, or operating instructions and safety warnings make the product unreasonably dangerous to use.2
Two Maryland men decided to dry their hot air balloon in commercial laundry dryer. The dryer exploded, injuring them. They sued the manufacturer and won.
A two-year-old child being treated for bronchial spasms suffered brain damage from a drug overdose. The hospital staff had clearly exceeded the dosage level prescribed by the manufacturer. The child's parents successfully sued the manufacturer.
In Australia, about 20,000 kangaroos are killed or injured by motor vehicles each year. Vehicles are equipped with bullbars to limit damage to kangaroos. The problem is that the bullbars often confuse computer sensors, causing airbags to deploy unnecessarily. To solve the problem, General Motors-Holden's Automotive is experimenting with Robo-roo, a crash dummy that is made in the image of a 60-kg kangaroo. Robo-roo is used to test various bullbars in an effort to find one that prevents injury to the kangaroos and is often safe with regard to airbags.3
While examples such as these are devastating, many feel that product liability law is now as it should be—in favor of the injured product user. Consumer advocates like Ralph Nader argue that for too long, product liability favored producers at the expense of the product user. They claim that the threat of lawsuits and huge settlements and restitutions force companies to make safe products. While a discussion of all aspects of products liability is beyond the scope of this text, it is clear that liability has and will continue to have tremendous impact on consumers and manufacturers alike. And these two groups are not the only ones affected. Retailers, franchises, wholesalers, sellers of mass-produced homes, and building site developers and engineers are all subject to liability legislation.