The Restatement (Third) of Torts is expected to continue the consumer-oriented trend that began with the recognition of strict products liability under section 402A. Earlier law had required an injured plaintiff either to focus on the defendant's failure to conform to the standard of care as required by the law of negligence or to comply with the Uniform Commercial Code’s complicated law of warranty. Later, the law of strict products liability allowed an injured consumer to prevail simply by establishing that the product in question was defective. Once enacted, section 402A resulted in a greatly increased number of lawsuits in the area of consumer protection. Manufacturers are now even held responsible not only for defective products causing injury, as contemplated by the Restatement, but also goods that would not ordinarily be perceived as “products.” Some maintain that products liability should now extend to injuries inflicted during the dismantling, destruction, and general recycling of products. In thirty years, the legal system has perhaps gone from strict products liability to unlimited liability, creating an “insurance crisis” outcry and appeals for tort reform. The purpose of this article is to consider an idea that has previously received little attention: the premise that a manufacturer should not be held responsible for injuries once the useful life of its product has come to an end. We should explore the prospect that, like all things tangible, products eventually grow old and die, and that once this process has taken place, a manufacturer should not be held responsible for resulting injuries.
The Useful Life Defense: Embracing the Idea That All Products Eventually Grow Old and Die,
80 Neb. L. Rev.
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