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Classification of a product as unavoidably unsafe for use

Unsafe or defective products cause thousands of injuries across the country each year. Manufacturers and sellers are responsible for ensuring the safety of consumers using their products, and must warn them of any possible dangers. Failing to meet this responsibility can lead to significant liability for the manufacturer.

For products in which a manufacturer or seller has exercised adequate care in producing and making available to the public, but the product is still dangerous, the manufacturer or seller may still carry liability unless they meet certain exceptions. This liability is dependent on the classification of the product as "unavoidable unsafe." If it is qualified as unavoidably unsafe, it will not be found to be defective and will except the manufacturer from liability.

An unavoidable unsafe product is one that is not able to be made safe for its ordinary and intended use. There are four criteria applied to determine if a product meets the unavoidably unsafe exception. First, a court will look to how the product was prepared. If a mistake was made during manufacturing, or if it is found to be ineffective, a product will not meet the unavoidable unsafe exception. Products must also be marketed appropriately. If there is a failure to properly warn or incorrect directions are included with a product, this exception is also not available. Next, the usefulness of a product must be found to be greater than the risk of injury that it poses. If the benefits of a product do not warrant the risk associated with its use, it will not meet this exception. Finally, there must not exist any reasonable alternative to achieve the purpose of the product. If such an alternative exists and is safer, then the unavoidable unsafe exception will not apply.

Consumers must be careful when using products in the market, but manufacturers and sellers have a duty to make these products safe and warn users of the potential dangers. Not meeting this duty may open a manufacturer to liability if they do not meet any of the exceptions outlined above.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is an Unavoidably Unsafe Product?," accessed on June 14, 2015

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