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Defects in Manufacturing

A well-designed product can still cause grievous harm if the product is not manufactured properly. In these cases, the manufacturer can be liable for injuries caused by the poorly manufactured product if a jury finds that there was a defect in manufacturing.

What is a Defect in Manufacturing?

A defect in manufacturing is one that the manufacturer did not intend. Technically, a product "contains a manufacturing defect when the product departs from its intended design even though all possible care was exercised in the preparation and marketing of the product."

This means that it does not matter how careful the manufacturer was when designing products, choosing materials, creating the assembly line, and issuing quality assurance guidelines. If a poorly manufactured product left the factory and the caused injury when used for any of its intended purposes due to the defect in manufacturing, the manufacturer has to pay for any injuries. This is an example of the legal principle known as "strict liability."

Challenges in Proving Manufacturing Defects

It can be difficult to prove that there was ever a manufacturing defect. To illustrate this, consider an example. Suppose a car's braking system does not work properly and causes a plaintiff to have an accident. Even though the manufacturer of the car did not intend for the brakes to malfunction, and even though the manufacturer was not negligent in the design of the brakes, the strict liability doctrine in products liability law could render the manufacturer liable.

However, a plaintiff may have difficulty proving that a product caused the plaintiff's injuries. For example, even if a car had some defect in the braking system, the driver's poor reaction to driving conditions may have been the actual cause of an accident. A car may be so heavily damaged in an accident, for instance, that it is impossible to prove what caused the accident to occur.

In some instances, a plaintiff can rely on the "malfunction doctrine" to prove causation. Under this doctrine, if the circumstances of an accident indicate that a defect caused the accident, and the plaintiff can produce evidence that removes other possible causes, then the plaintiff can prove causation even if the product is damaged or destroyed. This doctrine is similar in application to res ipsa loquitur in the law of negligence.

In other words, the plaintiff can attempt to show that the very fact that he was in an accident proves that there was some defect in the brakes. If the brakes were properly designed, and there were no other external factors that could have caused the accident, then there must have been a defect in manufacturing.

To find out more about product liability suits, see FindLaw's articles about Defects in Design or Defects in Warnings.

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