Although the debate has been heated and at times simplistic, the problem of products liability is complex and most of us regard it with a high degree of ambivalence. We are all consumers, after all, who profit greatly from living in an industrial society. In this chapter, we examine the legal theories that underlie products-liability cases that developed rapidly in the twentieth century to address the problems of product-caused damages and injuries in an industrial society.
In the typical products-liability case, three legal theories are asserted—a contract theory and two tort theories. The contract theory is warranty, governed by the UCC, and the two tort theories are negligence and strict products liability, governed by the common law. See Figure 17.1.
As products became increasingly sophisticated and potentially dangerous in the twentieth century, and as the separation between production and consumption widened, products liability became a very important issue for both consumers and manufacturers. Millions of people every year are adversely affected by defective products, and manufacturers and sellers pay huge amounts for products-liability insurance and damages. The law has responded with causes of action that provide a means for recovery for products-liability damages.
- How does the separation of production from consumption affect products-liability issues?
- What other changes in production and consumption have caused the need for the development of products-liability law?
- How can it be said that courts adjudicate the allocation of the costs of a consumer-oriented economy?