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    Products Liability Law Research

    The liability of a manufacturer or seller of a product was once a simple matter of measuring the conduct of the defendant against traditional negligence principles.

    In the early 1960s, however, the courts began to accept the notion that the supplier of a defective product should be held accountable for consequent injuries based, not on the conduct of the defendant, but on the performance of the product.  Strict liability thus became the most-often-asserted basis for recovery under the modern law of products liability.

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    Recognition of a strict liability cause of action was deemed appropriate because the manufacturer and seller of a defective product are better able than the injured consumer to absorb the loss.  Through charging higher prices for its product and obtaining products liability insurance, the supplier is able to pass the cost of the accident to the public at large.  The often catastrophic costs are shifted from the person who suffers the injury to the consuming public. Strict liability, then, was justified as a means of distributing the loss and shifting the risk from the injured person to the consuming public.

    Parallel to the development of strict liability, Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code gained approval as a statutory basis for the recovery of damages for product-caused injuries.  Article 2, which deals with sales, provided plaintiffs with three additional theories:  breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.

    The convergence of the negligence, strict liability, and warranty theories has produced a proliferation of considerations and issues unprecedented in tort law.  In response to this situation, the states have begun to legislate in this area and the federal government is seriously considering enacting language which would attempt to clarify and unify the status of product liability law in this country.


    In 1976, NLRG conducted a complete analysis of product liability law for the U.S. Commerce Department's Interagency Task Force on Product Liability.  This 1,200-page study was published in full by the federal government.  We also sponsored the First World Congress on Product Liability, held in London.  The Congress brought together leading experts in the field from the United States, Europe, and the Far East.  NLRG publishes Product Liability Trends, a monthly analysis of current legal, political, and economic developments relating to product liability.  Moreover, to date, more than 1,000 studies of product liability issues and problems have been completed for our clients.


    Representative of the specific problems which attorneys in the area may encounter are the following:

    • Determination of which product liability theories can be appropriately applied
    • Proof of defectiveness
    • Accrual of statute of limitations in latent disease cases
    • Application of comparative fault doctrine to strict liability cause of action
    • Recovery of economic loss under strict liability theory
    • Liability of component part manufacturers
    • Liability of successor corporations
    • Indemnification and contribution issues
    • Evidentiary impact of compliance with safety standards
    • Available defenses



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    MEET OUR TOP Products liability LAW research ATTORNEYS


    Fred Shackelford

    B.A., with Distinction, University of Virginia, 1978. J.D., University of Virginia Law School, 1983.  Member, Virginia Bar.  Fred was an Associate at Williams Mullen in Richmond Virginia, and Tremblay & Smith, LLP, in Charlottesville, Virginia (where he focused on personal injury law), prior to joining our firm in 1987. Fred has handled thousands of cases over the years, including many state and federal appellate court briefs.

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    Jeremy taylor

    B.A., College of William and Mary, 1983.  J.D., Marshall Wythe School of Law, College of William and Mary, 1986. Member, Virginia, U.S. Fourth Circuit and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals Bars.  Jeremy joined NLRG in 1986 and is the editor of our Products Liability Update. Areas of expertise include Administrative Law, Evidence, Personal Injury, Immigration, Civil Procedure, and Products Liability/Consumer Protection.

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