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Products liability laws may evolve to meet 3-D printing process

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

The laws of products liability in Pennsylvania may see some reformulation in future years. That is because the 3-D printing phenomenon will be placing more and more products on the market. The technology involves feeding a computer design into a machine that will produce or "print" a consumer product over and over, ready for sale and use right there on the spot. Accordingly, the laws of products liability may be subjected to new theories of responsibility or at least to new ways of perceiving the assignment of legal liability.

The printer can design, create, and then duplicate one or many 3-dimensional items, depending on the complexity of the instructions and the versatility of the printer. The once-separate processes of design, manufacture and sales may be consolidated into one comprehensive process where the same source is responsible for all three functions. Nevertheless, despite those revolutionary changes for certain products, Pennsylvania's current application of strict liability in general to the law of defective products will likely be retained.

However, the 3-D printing process is a complex technology lacking in a single defining dynamic. There may therefore be changing concepts of liability from machine to machine, or from computer-assisted design to computer-assisted design. It is currently difficult to predict how each defective 3-D product may be evaluated for purposes of determining liability for damages to injured users.

Pennsylvania law is substantially governed by strict liability principles in products liability law. Generally, where certain facts are met, the manufacturer will be strictly liable, without regard to negligence or to the contributory negligence of the user. It is unclear whether this may need to be modified with the advent of 3-D printing. For the ultimate user who sustains injury from a defective product, the procedure of making a claim will continue to entail seeking the services of a knowledgeable products liability attorney. The attorney will in turn use the firm's expertise, resources and experience to pursue the proper legal claims aggressively for the client.

This blog entry was posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

Source: post-gazette.com, "3-D printing set to disrupt products liability law", Max Mitchell, June 7, 2016

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