A recent decision handed down by the Connecticut Supreme Court may significantly impact the way product liability lawsuits are litigated within the state of Connecticut in the future. In a products liability case, the “malfunction doctrine” permits the plaintiff to argue at trial that a product possessed a defect without offering direct evidence of a defect, but rather only circumstantial evidence of the alleged defect. Under the malfunction doctrine a plaintiff is permitted to argue that a product was defective due to an unexpected event that would not have occurred if the product functioned properly without the necessity of specifying the part or component that was actually defective. A common use of the malfunctions doctrine is in product liability cases arising out of a fire. In a fire case, a plaintiff will typically argue that all causes for the fire have been ruled out except for a malfunction within the product despite no direct evidence of a specific defect.
Eric Niederer handles health care liability, product liability, catastrophic loss and high-exposure matters in state and federal court. He has represented a variety of health care providers in litigation, compliance issues and Department of Public Health investigations. Additionally, Eric has represented national and international manufacturers, distributors and retailers in product liability and commercial actions, including medical products and FDA and CPSC recalls. He has written articles and lectured on health care, product liability and Connecticut civil procedure. Eric routinely handles catastrophic loss and wrongful death actions in a myriad of actions with direct day-to-day development, implementation and handling of the overall litigation strategy and activities in a variety of low-exposure to high-exposure cases up to and through trial, including appellate practice.
Connecticut, the first state to pass a law that requires labeling for genetically engineered foods, is being joined by states with similar labeling requirements, but no labeling mandates. Despite the reluctance of some states to enact these labeling regulations, it appears that the trend is moving toward more stringent labeling requirements for food manufacturers. We, of course, as product liability defense attorneys and risk professionals, are keeping an eye on this trend, since expansions of statutory labeling requirements will present more risk exposure to food manufacturers.