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Florida Supreme Court Upholds Consumer Expectation Test Over Risk Utility Test in Product Liability Cases

In late October, the Florida State Supreme Court reached a decision upholding the use of the “consumer expectations test” in some product liability cases. The consumer expectations test is used to determine whether or not the user of a product should expect it to be dangerous if used in the correct way. This ruling overturns a previous district court ruling that said the “risk utility” test should be used in product liability cases.

About the Case

In Aubin v. Union Carbide Co., a Florida man claimed he contracted mesothelioma by working with products containing asbestos mined by Union Carbide. The man originally won a $6.6 million in damages but the ruling was overturned by the district court. The court said that in this case the risk utility test should be used to determine the outcome of the case. The risk utility test determines whether the benefit from using a product in a responsible manner outweighs the risk of harm from the way it is made. This test clearly benefits manufacturers of faulty products as they can win in product liability suits if their dangerous products do enough net good for the user.

The Florida State Supreme Court stepped in and overturned the district court’s ruling and reinstated the consumer expectations test. The Supreme Court justified this decision, claiming that the consumer expectations test better adheres to the doctrine of strict liability, the legal doctrine for liability without proving fault.

The decision is a victory for consumers who now have an easier time proving the dangers of a defective product without having to consider the positive utility of the product.

Product Liability Cases

Product liability cases arise when a person is injured or killed by a defective product. The injured party has grounds to sue the manufacturer, wholesaler or distributor, depending on the situation and specific defect. These cases can pertain to manufacturing defects, where a product is unintentionally made defective in the manufacturing process, and design defects, where the original blueprint of the product was flawed leading to the creation of a dangerous product.

There are three types of product liability lawsuits: negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty. In negligence suits, the plaintiff must prove that carelessness in the design and manufacturing of a product led to his or her injuries and that the defendant had a duty to sell a safe product. In strict liability cases, the plaintiff only has to prove that the product was defective and an injury occurred, and the case does not consider whether or not the manufacturer used extreme care when making the product. Breach of warranty cases relate to when a manufacturer breaches any guaranteed expectation of the safety of a product, whether explicitly stated or implied.

Contact a Florida Product Liability Lawyer Today

The world is filled with dangerous and poorly designed products that can leave you or a loved one seriously injured. At the Pendas Law Firm, our skilled Florida lawyers can help you stand up to the large corporations that carelessly design dangerous products. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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