Liability: The Decline & Fall of Privity

One of the fastest-growing branches of U.S. litigation is product-design liability suits against manufacturers, claiming that faultily designed products caused serious injuries or deaths. "This explosive field has grown tenfold in the last ten years—and that's on the conservative side," says Lawyer Craig Spangenberg, partner in a Cleveland firm that specializes in such cases. Spangenberg is all for it: "There's no reason why American industry can send a rocket to the moon and not design a can opener that's safe."

In a warning aimed at the nation's designers, on the other hand, the trade journal Product Engineering worriedly argues that...

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