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Product Liability And Innovation Managing Risk In An Uncertain Environment by Janet R Hunziker And Trevor O Jones

Overview and Perspectives

TREVOR O. JONES and JANET R. HUNZIKER

An engineer in the general aviation industry notes that in some cases 20 percent of engineering staff time is spent producing documents for various forms of legal discovery and preparing information for defense against product liability suits.

Engineers in the automotive industry, knowing that a design change can be misconstrued in a product liability suit to mean that the former design was deficient, feel constrained about discussing and implementing design changes, including safety improvements.

A manufacturer of life-saving implantable medical devices hears from some of its suppliers who are major producers of critical raw materials that they will restrict supply of their materials to that industry. The reason they give is that the risk of being pulled into product liability suits is too great. The company must fill the gap with materials from smaller, less technologically well-established companies.

As public policy debates go, the one involving the impacts of the U.S. product liability system on the ability of American companies to innovate and remain competitive may be perceived by most of the public as somewhat distanced from the normal activities of everyday life. Unlike the economy or health care, product liability is not an issue covered daily by the news media. Most Americans' knowledge of product liability comes from hearing or reading about particular cases or judgments that

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 No. 135
 Posted on 7 June, 2006
 
 
 
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