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39 Wayne L. Rev. 1217 (1992-1993)
Design Defect Liability: In Search of a Standard of Responsibility

handle is hein.journals/waynlr39 and id is 1231 raw text is: DESIGN DEFECT LIABILITY: IN SEARCH OF
Responsibility' for the consequences of our own actions and
occasionally for the actions of others seems to have been largely
forgotten as a foundation for governing conduct. This Article
advocates re-emphasizing responsibility in one important area, that
of manufacturer2 liability for product design. To that end, I
t Assistant Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of Law;
B.A., 1979, University of Virginia; J.D., 1985, Wake Forest University. This
Article, in an earlier draft, was the subject of a colloquium presentation by the
author to the faculty of the University of Kentucky in October 1992 at which
many valuable suggestions were received.
I. The term responsibility has many different meanings. Black's Law
Dictionary defines it as [t]he state of being answerable for an obligation, and
includes judgment, skill, ability and capacity.... The obligation to answer for an
act done, and to repair or otherwise make restitution for any injury it may have
caused. BLACK's LAW DICTIONARY 1179 (5th ed. 1979). It includes the elements
of reliability and trustworthiness. See WEBSTER'S Nurri Nnw CoLLEGIATE DicrioN-
ARY 1005 (1987). Of course, responsibility in a moral or political sense is more
difficult to define than the legal sense in which the term is used in this Article.
For two excellent discussions of the larger role that responsibility should play in
our tort system, see Leslie Bender, Feminist (Re)Torts: Thoughts on the Liability
Crisis, Mass Torts, Power, and Responsibilities, 1990 DutnK L.J. 848, 895-908, and
Timothy T. Lytton, Responsibility for Human Suffering: Awareness, Participation,
and the Frontiers of Tort Law, 78 CoRN m. L. Rnv. 470 (1993).
2. Using the term manufacturer implies similarities in all manufacturers
when their only real similarity is the manufacture and distribution of some product.
When we hear the word manufacturer, we think of companies with employment
rolls in the thousands and very sophisticated design, engineering, manufacturing
and marketing systems. Not every manufacturer, however, is General Motors
Corporation. This Article uses the term manufacturer to include any entity that
makes a product for consumption by the public and recognizes that the vast
majority of product producers are not monolithic entities but are of much more
moderate character.
When referring to manufacturers throughout this Article, I use personal
pr6nouns, i.e., he, she or they. Personalizing these companies serves a
purpose. Identifying a company as a person assigns qualities to it that only thinking,
feeling humans can have. These qualities include the ability to make value judgments
with integrity, honesty, morality, and responsibility. To forget that corporations


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