Defects and injuries, however, are “constant” dangers when people use such products, and users must therefore have some form of “constant protection” under law. That protection is established by the doctrine of strict liability in tort. Why should the manufacturer be held responsible for such defects and injuries? Because, reasoned the court, “the manufacturer is best situated to afford…protection.” And this, explains your lawyer, is why you’re going to sue the manufacturer of your ladder on grounds of strict liability. Chapter 16 The Legal and Regulatory Environment of Business 16.4 Product Liability 893
Strict Liability in the Distribution Chain You’re excited about the prospect of recovering monetary damages from the manufacturer of your ladder, but you continue to wonder (on completely hypothetical grounds, of course) whether the doctrine of strict liability is as fair as it should be. What about all the other businesses involved in the process of getting the product from the manufacturer to the user—especially the one that did in fact introduce the defect that caused all the trouble? Does the doctrine of strict liability relieve them of all liability in the case? Indeed not, your lawyer assures you. The concept of strict liability not only provides more practical grounds for suing the manufacturer but also supports your right to pursue claims against members of the manufacturer’s distribution chain (see Chapter 9 "Marketing: Providing Value to Customers" ).See Henry R. Cheesman, Contemporary Business and Online Commerce Law: Legal, Internet, Ethical, and Global Environments , 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2006), 370. That’s one reason, he points out, why product- liability lawsuits against businesses that sell such “unreasonably dangerous” products as ladders (or even deliver them to worksites) went up a hundredfold between 1950 and 2001, to a total of $205 billion.Conrad Shawn, “Tackling Product Liability: NLBMDA to Introduce Product Liability Legislation,” AllBusiness , January 1, 2006, - durable-goods-lumber/855278-1.html (accessed November 12, 2011). Now, let’s say that your lawyer has given your defective ladder to a forensic laboratory in order to find out exactly what caused it to buckle and you to fall. As it turns out, the clue to the problem is the small patch of rust that brought down the price you paid for the ladder when you bought it. The ladder, concludes the lab, had for some time been in close proximity to liquid nitrogen, which can corrode various metals, including aluminum.See David E. Baker and Rusty Lee, “Portable Ladder Safety,” National Ag Safety Database , October 1993, 1091/d000877/portable-ladder-safety.html (accessed November 12, 2011). Sure enough, further investigation reveals that the entire shipment of ladders had been stored for nearly two years in a Ladders ’N’ Things warehouse next to an inventory of liquid-nitrogen–based fertilizer. Your lawyer advises you that, in addition to your
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