Product Liability Entering the Twenty-First Century: The U.S. Perspective

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Brookings Institution Press, May 13, 2004 - Law - 64 pages

Are liability "crises" an inevitable part of the modern industrial landscape? Does the inherent nature of the insurance industry promote recurring liability crises? What have been the effects of the liability reforms of the 1990s? Should lawyers be given de facto regulatory authority? This report provides perspective on these and other key issues concerning the law and economics of products liability. The authors begins with a brief description of the evolution of products liability doctrine in the U.S., up to the point of the liability crisis of the late 1980s. They discuss the economic implications of product risk for both consumers and producers, offer economic hypothesis on the implications of the increased scope of liability and subsequent reforms, and provide an update of trends in litigation and liability law. The book ends with a discussion of pending legislation and prospects for further improvements. Moore and Viscusi make the point that effective liability policy calls for a balancing of the incentives for improved public safety on one hand, and the benefits of new and existing products on the other.


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I am reviewing the limited preview of Products liability entering the twenty-first century : the U.S. perspective, by Michael J Moore and W Kip Viscusi.
This limited preview
does not quote enough of the preface and introduction to determine the thesis of the authors.
Fortunately the entire document is available on-line. In your Google search window, search for the full title of the book and take note of the PDF file that occurs in the listing.
This article describes with clarity the arc of product liability legal development from the 1920s to the year 2000. Reflecting the organizational concerns of the publishers, this article describes product liability both as a business problem and an expanding range of torts subject to litigation.
For a business, there is the specific problem of rising premiums for purchasing product liability defense insurance, and in some cases, inability to continue in business due to product liability that exceeds the economic limits a business can support.
As a layman, I particularly enjoyed this succinct explanation of the basic legal process that operates on product liability: What is a tort?
"Products liability in the United States falls under the law of
torts, which governs private transactions in which there is no
written contract. Under the law of torts, one person has a claim
against another if, through an action, exchange, or other inter-
action, the injured party has been harmed, which harm has
been caused by the injuring party through some act or omis-
sion and which act or omission constitutes a breach of duty."
quoted from Products Liability Entering the 21st Century page 14.
The publishing organization is the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. AEI is the abbreviation for American Enterprise Institute.
I found this book because I am puzzled why the last two coffee makers I have disassembled are secured with a special screw called a Torx security screw. I suspect some kind of product liability issue has driven the use of these special fasteners.
A second question I am trying to understand is why is both the Mr. Coffee and the Cuisinart brand coffee maker manufactured in China? Is there a product liability advantage gained by moving appliance manufacture to China?

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About the author (2004)

Michael J. Moore is a visiting associate professor at the Darden School of Business Administration, University of Virginia and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. W. Kip Viscusi is John F. Cogan Jr. Professor of Law and Economics and director of the Program on Empirical Legal Studies at Harvard Law School.

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