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Defending against product liability claims: a look at some legal basics in Ohio, P.2

Last time, we began looking at Ohio law concerning manufacturing defects. As we noted, Ohio law recognizes several types of product liability claims. In addition to manufacturing defects, there are also design and formulation defects.

Design and formulation defects are those risks which are foreseeable given the design and formulation of a product and which are outweighed by the benefits of the specific design or formulation. Such defects are determined, in other words, by a cost-benefit analysis. 

Whether any given risk is foreseeable under the law is determine by considering a variety of factors, including: the intended and reasonably foreseeable uses, modifications or alterations of the product; the likely awareness consumers would have of the product risks; and the nature and magnitude of the risks. The benefits of the design or formulation in question also involve consideration of various factors, including: the indented or actual usefulness of the design or formulation; the costs and possibility of using an alternative design or formulation, and the risks associated with any alternative designs.

Ohio law is somewhat measured in imposing liability for product design and formulation. For one thing, products are not considered defective when the alleged defect is a generic characteristic of a product which is not possible to eliminate without substantially decreasing the usefulness of the product for its intended purpose. In the same way, a product is not considered defectively designed when there was no feasible alternative design at the time of manufacture which would have prevented the harm without substantially harming the usefulness of the product for its intended purpose.  

In addition, drug and medical device companies can avoid liability for unavoidably unsafe formulations and designs by providing adequate warnings and instructions regarding the risks and proper use of the product. We’ll say more about this in our next post in connection with another type of product liability claim: failure to warn. 

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