Vanderbilt Law Review


David G. Owen

First Page



In the evolution of products liability law, therefore,should be the time for doing what usually comes late in the common-law process: to develop a system of fundamental social values and goals to be protected and advanced by the law in this area. Broadly stated, an appropriate balance between individual liberty and social welfare needs to be struck within a fair and workable adjudicatory system. Once a jurisprudential basis of this type has been set, we may then begin to develop a consistent set of principles tailored to this area of the law. It will then be possible to construct one or more "tests" or rules of liability (and defense) which are firmly rooted in the values of society. As a principled system of products liability law thus develops, it would be most surprising if the great bulk of the current doctrinal problems did not drop quickly by the wayside. ...

Part 2 of this Article will examine several recent attempts to draw upon these accepted policies for assistance in addressing some of the difficult issues of (1) defining "defectiveness," and (2) determining how far the boundaries of strict liability should be extended past sales of new chattels by manufacturers. Part 1 will present a critical reexamination of the existing policies and will demonstrate that much of the current doctrinal confusion springs from the logical inadequacy of the existing policies which itself derives from the lack of a reasoned foundation of political values beneath this area of law. The overall purpose of this Article is to penetrate into the traditional morass of policy arguments in products liability law, to strip away those rationales which cannot withstand the light, and to identify the ways in which the existing policies have intuitively pointed in the right directions.

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