Over time, negligence concepts have arisen to deal with certain specific situations, including negligence per se (using a manufacturer’s violation of a law or regulation in place of proof of a duty and a breach) and res ipsa loquitur (an inference of negligence under certain conditions).
A products liability claim is usually based on one or more of the following causes of action:
- Design defect
- Manufacturing defect
- A failure to warn
The claims may succeed even when products were used incorrectly by the consumer, as long as the incorrect use was foreseeable by the manufacturer (or other party in the “supply chain”).
A basic negligence claim consists of proof of:
- A duty owed
- A breach of that duty
- An injury, and
- That the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury
Products Liability and Strict Liability
Products liability claims are, in general, not based on negligence, but rather on a liability theory called “strict liability.”
Rather than focus on the behavior of the manufacturer (as in negligence), strict liability claims focus on the product itself. Under strict liability, the manufacturer is liable if the product is defective, even if the manufacturer was not negligent in making that product defective.
Product Liability and Breach of Warranty
Warranties are statements by a manufacturer or seller concerning a product during a commercial transaction. Unlike negligence claims, which focus on the manufacturer’s conduct, or strict liability claims, which focus on the condition of the product, warranty claims focus on how these issues relate to a commercial transaction. Warranty claims commonly require privity between the injured party and the manufacturer or seller. Breach of warranty based product liability claims usually focus on one of three types: (1) breach of an express warranty, (2) breach of an implied warranty of merchantability, and (3) breach of an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.