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Elements of a defective design claim in Texas products liability

The history of law is replete with different ways in which to approach the responsibilities of parties when it comes to the production, selling and buying of products in the general stream of commerce. From the ancient concept of caveat emptor, or "buyer beware," to the more modern approach of implied warranties, the balancing of the interests of consumers against manufacturers and sellers has been a part of the legal framework of Western society for many years.

In the United States, people who are injured by a defective product often have a right to compensation for their injuries. However, to exercise those rights, the injured party must utilize the legal system by filing a civil lawsuit against someone responsible for the product being available to the consumer. To do this, plaintiffs generally need to prove the elements of a "tort" against a responsible party. Laws in Texas distinguish between manufacturers and sellers in most instances, and when each may bear liability for a defective product. This post focuses on manufacturers and a claim of injury by a product that contained a "design defect."

Section 82.005 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code contains the elements involved in this particular cause of action. To recover damages for an injury based upon a design defect in a product in Texas, a plaintiff must show that a defect in the product in question was a factor in producing the injury or property damage alleged by the claimant, and that there was an alternative design of the product that would have been safer. This second requirement may seem a bit broad, so the statute gives some more clarity by defining this hypothetical "safer alternative design" as a design that would have prevented the actual injury or damage suffered without substantially hurting the utility of the product, and that such design would have been feasible from an economic and technical standpoint at the time the product left the manufacturer's control.

One question Texans injured by a defectively designed product may have is "How would someone know whether there is a safer alternative design to a product?" While this may be a difficult question to answer in some circumstances, people who find themselves in this situation may wish to consider getting more information about products liability claims in order to answer that question.

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