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Products Liability: A Legal Overview

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Publication Date: June 2005

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: IB97056

Topic: Law and ethics (Liability, torts, and personal injury)


Products liability refers to the liability of a manufacturer or seller for injury caused by his product to the person or property of a buyer or third party. Legal developments starting in the 1960s, particularly the adoption of strict tort liability, have made it substantially easier for persons injured by defective products to recover damages. Starting in the 1980s, however, many states enacted tort reform legislation that limited the rights of injured parties. Advocates for consumers and plaintiffs view strong products liability law as necessary to ensure adequate compensation for injured workers and consumers and to furnish an incentive for the manufacture of safe products. Manufacturers and their insurers, by contrast, contend that many products liability judgments are unwarranted or excessive and that national uniformity in products liability law is needed. Therefore, they favor replacing the 50 state products liability laws with one federal law.