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New Jersey Dangerous Products Law-How to Prove the Defective Design Case

Under New Jersey law, manufacturers and sellers of products have a duty to make and sell reasonably safe products, fit for their intended or reasonably forseeable uses. Product manufacturers/sellers owe this duty to not only the direct user of a given product, but also reasonably forseeable users, as well as those who would reasonably be expected to come into contact with the product.

There are three ways for someone injured by a dangerous, defective product to prove that the product was not reasonably safe for its intended purpose: (1) manufacturing defects, (2) failure to warn and (3) defective design. This article will discuss defective design only.

People injured by dangerous products in New Jersey face a complex set of laws and court decisions, especially in situations where a product was defectively designed. Although there are three types of defective design claims, each type of claim requires thorough analysis by a team of experts-the lawyer, engineering experts, mechanical or electrical experts. 


1. Reasonable Safer Design

This claim is the most common type of defective design claim. The injured victim must establish that the product's risks/dangerousness could have been avoided or reduced by use of a reasonable, safer design and that the failure to use this alternative design makes the product unsafe. This claim boils down to one main question-whether the product, as it was designed, was reasonably safe. If not and there is a suitable, reasonable alternative, then the injured victim has made out the Reasonable Safer Design claim and will be able to prove that the product was defectively designed.


2. Risk-Utility

This type of claim is one of the more complex defective design claims. It is proven by establishing that the product's risks/dangerousness as it was designed, outweigh the product's usefulness or utility. Therefore, a reasonably careful manufacturer/seller would not have sold the product. 

The following questions are factors to consider when determining the risk versus utility of the given product:

A. Was there a need for the product to be designed as it was?
B. What were the risks of injury with the product as designed and how serious were they? Were they anticipated?
C. Was there an alternative, feasible and practical design that would have eliminated the risk/danger?
D. Was there any way to eliminate the danger without changing the product's usefulness or without making it too expensive?
E. Did the user use the product in a safe, reasonable way?
F. Were there suitable warnings?
G. Was the danger obvious? 

The bottom line, after taking into account all of the questions above: if the dangers/risks outweigh the product's usefulness and therefore a reasonable manufacturer/seller would not have sold the product, then the product was designed defectively.


3. Consumer Expectations Test

This type of claim is relatively rare. An injured victim must prove that the product was defectively designed. This can be established by proving that the product did not safely perform the job or function it was supposed to perform and so the product did not perform according to the consumer's expectations. A common example is a bike that failed when the rider applied brakes and the failure was caused by some defect in the design of the brake system of the bike. 

The injured victim does not have to prove that the product manufacturer or seller knew of the actual danger in the design or knew that the accident could have happened as it did. Under New Jersey law, the product manufacturer/seller is deemed to have knowledge of the possibility of the accident. However, in many cases, the defendant manufacturer/seller will take the position that the danger of the design was not knowable at the time of the manufacture or sale or that there was no feasible alternative. In this situation, the burden lies with the defendant to prove this. 

The Consumer Expectation Test revolves around two central questions 1) whether the product did not safely fulfill its intended functions due to a defective design and 2) whether the product manufacturer/seller, knowing of the possibility of the type of accident, was reasonably careful in the way in which it designed and then marketed/sold the product.


If you've been injured by a dangerous, defective product, it is vital that you speak to a qualified, experienced New Jersey/Pennsylvania dangerous products lawyer. The team at White and Williams has handled many dangerous products cases and has achieved much success. We serve accident victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and always offer a free consultation. 1-877-944-8396

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