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Business LibreTexts

16.4: Product Liability

  • Page ID
    4087
  • Learning Objectives

    1. Define product liability and discuss the three grounds, or “theories of recovery,” for a claim of product liability.
    2. Discuss the three forms of manufacturer’s negligence that may be claimed in a product-liability case.
    3. Define strict liability and explain the doctrine of strict liability in tort.
    4. Define a warranty and distinguish between express warranties and implied warranties.
    5. Identify the primary goal of tort law and distinguish between compensatory damages and punitive damages.

    In addition to intentional and negligence torts, U.S. law recognizes a third category of torts: strict liability torts involve actions that are inherently dangerous and for which a party may be liable no matter how carefully he or she (or it) performs them. To better appreciate the issues involved in cases of strict liability, let’s take up the story of your legal adventures in the world of business where we left off:


    Having escaped the house-painting business relatively unscathed, you head back home to rethink your options for gainful employment over your summer vacation. You’ve stored your only remaining capital assets—the two ladders and the platform that you’d used for scaffolding—in your father’s garage, where one afternoon, your uncle notices them. Examining one of the ladders, he asks you how much weight it’s designed to hold, and you tell him what the department manager at Ladders ’N’ Things told you—three hundred pounds per rung. He nods as if this is a good number, and, sensing that he might want to buy them, you hasten to add that though you got them at a cut-rate price because of a little rust, they’re virtually brand-new. As it turns out, he doesn’t want to buy them, but he does offer to pay you $35 an hour to take them to his house and help him put up new roofing. He’s easygoing, he’s family, and he probably won’t sue you for anything, so you jump at the opportunity.

    Everything goes smoothly until day two, when you’re working on the scaffolding two stories off the ground. As you’re in the process of unwrapping a bundle of shingles, one of the ladders buckles, bringing down the platform and depositing you on your uncle’s stone patio with a cervical fracture.

    Fortunately, there’s no damage to your spinal cord, but you’re in pain and you need surgery. Now it’s your turn to sue somebody. But whom? And for what?