Orlando, FL (JusticeNewsFlash.com) — The defense bar recently had their chance to fulfill their dream of requiring plaintiffs’ attorneys to plead and prove the existence of a “reasonable alternative design” (“RAD”) in order to prevail when bringing a product liability action against a manufacturer for a design defect. Last year, the Florida Supreme Court had the opportunity to clearly and certainly define the state of the law in product liability design defect cases when it accepted jurisdiction for a case that was on appeal from the Fourth District. However, after oral arguments concluded before our state’s highest court, the Supreme Court decided to discharge jurisdiction before rendering an opinion. As a result, there is still a sufficient enough gray area for defense counsel to argue in favor of imposing a reasonable alternative design requirement in design defect cases. Accordingly, attorneys representing the injured need to anticipate this claim and prepare to refute it if the need shall arise.
The first and perhaps most important thing for plaintiff attorneys to keep in mind is that no Florida case has held that a plaintiff is required to show a safer alternative design in order to win a design defect action under strict product liability. Instead, the existence of a RAD is one of several factors that a court may consider when applying what is known as the “risk utility test” in design defect claims. Specifically, the risk utility test states that a product is unreasonably dangerous when the risk of danger in the product’s design outweighs that product’s benefits.
Also, plaintiff’s counsel should anticipate the argument which will likely be made by the defense as their primary support for imposing such a requirement. That argument is as follows: since liability is imposed only when there is a product defect, and being that a design is defective only when it contains an avoidable flaw, the only means by which an injured party can prove the flaw was avoidable is to prove that an alternative design without the flaw existed (i.e., a RAD existed at the time of the product’s design). However, this argument is not supported by any authority.
It is imperative for Florida courts to adhere to the current state of the law in this area. The imposition of pleading and proving a RAD in design defect claims would create a fundamentally unfair system where proceeding on a design defect theory in a product liability action would be virtually eliminated altogether. At the very least, the design defect arena would greatly favor manufacturers by essentially adding another element of proof. To demand that injured consumers plead and prove a RAD in a design defect action would deny these individuals the rights they deserve and have enjoyed in our state in excess of 30 years.
In the event you or a family member has been or is injured in the course of using a product, the law firm of Rue & Ziffra can assist you in determining if you have a claim, and if so, filing an action against all of the responsible parties. Our attorneys are well versed in product liability law and have experience in refuting unique defense arguments that attempt to raise the bar to recovery.