It can be difficult to prove whether or not a product is dangerously defective. What is of equal importance in litigation, though infrequently addressed, are any design process weaknesses during initial design or any product changes. A poor design process can lead to a product that causes injury or damage. In some cases proving that the product’s design process is flawed can assist in demonstrating that the product itself is flawed. In other words, poor design and management practice failed to adequately consider risks, resulting in poor design decisions and a defective product.
Analysis of a manufacturer’s design process can help demonstrate culpability especially when there are numerous accidents involving the product. This is accomplished by studying how the manufacturer collects, uses, and reacts to historical data about its product’s performance in the market place. There is risk in using any product no matter how benign it may be. The question is, did the product’s developers take this risk into account and mitigate what they could in a responsible manner during the life of the product?
For example: Takata airbags inflators have been identified as the cause of at least eleven deaths and countless injuries in recent years. While all products come with risks, it appears that Takata knew about the potential for injury and death as early as 2004 and made decisions to bury this information without proactively reacting to it. Read a white paper detailing Takata's liability for their actions.
Questions Dr. Ullman can address include:
During product design or re-design did the manufacturer:
- Follow design best practices during the initial development or change to the product?
- Analyze and mitigate risks in a professional manner?
- React to incidents/accidents during test and use in a responsible manner?
- Follow all applicable codes and standards?
- Have clear ownership of the IP?
In making product decisions, did the manufacturer:
- Appropriately consider the importance of all factors?
- Manage uncertainty in a way that minimizes risk to operators and equipment?
- Make decisions that not only minimize cost, but minimize risk to customers, operators and public?
During 2015 and 2016 Ullman has been working closely with an Atlanta lawyer on industrial injury cases. A specific type of equipment, one widely used in industry, repeatedly injures and kills workers. Manufacturers have ignored these injuries and even worked to get standards organizations and OSHA to overlook them. Through a detailed analysis of the industry and data, and through a series of court cases the plaintiffs are beginning to win settlements with the manufacturers. Ultimately, the manufacturers will be forced to revisit their design and decision making processes and change the products to eliminate the hazards.
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