In my September 2016 blog post, The Impact of the Smart Home Revolution on Product Liability and Fire Cause Determinations, I forecast that “dumb products made smart by connecting to the internet will present a new layer of complexity when a failure occurs.” When a product fails and causes property damage or bodily injury, experts are frequently tasked with assessing the root cause for the failure, which can lead to a claim or litigation against a potentially responsible third party. In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) will experts who have knowledge, skill and training sufficient to address potential root cause failures with a “dumb” version of a product have the requisite expertise to address the root cause failure with a “smart” version of the product − and withstand the challenge to their qualifications and methodology in court? The courts are beginning to grapple with this.

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150715-ProdLiab-IoTThe Internet of Things and the Inevitable Collision with Products Liability, published in February 2015, identified a number of factors leading to the emergence and phenomenal growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).  It also identified issues relating to potential product liability exposures and the impact that IoT-connected devices could have on risk assessment and risk transfer due to the consequences of foreseeable vulnerabilities and failures with IoT-connected products.

This second article addresses in more detail the emerging liability risks for the stakeholders at the forefront of the development and implementation of these technologies who, in turn, will be forced to confront those liabilities whether or not they are prepared to do so.


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Internet of Things: The Inevitable Collision with Product Liability is the first of a five-part series written by Michael O’Brien. Links to the other blogs in this series can be found at the end of this article.

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 The IoT – Internet of Things – is undergoing a rapid development that will continue to transform how we interact, conduct business and live our lives. The movement toward IoT’s ubiquitous application and use does not come without risk and, while some of the consequences can be easily predicted, many will not be fully understood for some time to come.

One area that will be impacted is product liability. The advent of smart devices will have far-reaching consequences for manufacturers and software developers to tech service companies, insurers and, most certainly, consumers. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report in January 2015 that highlights and forecasts these very concerns.


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