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Defective design cited as reason for child's injury in product liability suit


When people in Tennessee purchase products, the last thing they think about is whether that product is dangerous. This is especially true for children's products as parents, family members and friends believe the product has been tested and determined to be safe. What consumers may not realize is that a defective designcan lead to unexpected injury and even potential disfigurement. When the defective design of a product results in an injury, a product liability suit may ensue.

The New York Daily News recently reported a case in which a child was swinging a plastic T-ball bat near his younger brother. As the bat was swung it came apart and a jagged edge struck the younger child, five years old at the time, in the face. The incident severely lacerated the child's face, which required over 300 stitches to reconstruct. In consequence of the injury, the child's father filed a $4.5 against bat's manufacturer, citing negligence due to the defective design of the product.

Defining defective design

Defective design is defined as a product that poses a hazard or set of hazards due to the way the product was intentionally manufactured. It's important to distinguish a defectively designed product from a defectively manufactured product. The difference is founded in the intention of the manufacturer. If the hazard arises when the product that emerges from the manufacturing process is consistent with the design, it is defectively designed. Conversely, if the hazard arises when the process produces a product that is inconsistent with the design, it is defectively manufactured.

A defectively designed product should also be distinguished from the failure on the part of the manufacturer to provide adequate warnings or instructions. For example, an over-the-counter pharmaceutical product might fail to include a warning that, taken in combination with another otherwise safe product, it could produce serious side effect.

Dangerous does not mean defective

It's also important to remember that, just because a product is dangerous, a consumer cannot necessarily infer that it was defectively designed. Many products are inherently dangerous, due to the nature of the function they are intended to perform. For example, a hammer, whose intended effect is blunt force, is inherently dangerous to those who use it. A perfectly competent user of a hammer could easily inflict damage on his fingers with a slight deviation in accuracy while inserting a nail into a wall.

Given the inherent danger of some products, such as the hammer, in a product liability case the courts may subject the product in question to a specific test. The purpose of this test will be to evaluate the feasibility of an alternative design that would have eliminated or at least minimized the hazard under consideration. People in Tennessee who have questions about defective design should consult with an attorney.

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