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Legal Memorandum: Action for Strict Liability in VI

Issue: Under the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands, what must a plaintiff show in order to establish that a product was defective when proceeding in an action for strict liability?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Strict liability; Defective product
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 685 P.2d 744; 689 F.2d 45; 375 N.E.2d 1349; 630 So.2d 1067; 17 Ill. Dec. 65; 612 S.W.2d 727
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Third) Torts – PL §1, 2, 3
Date: 10/01/2007

Under the Restatement (Third) Torts – PL §1, Plaintiff must show the product was defective under §2 or under §3.  Section 2 applies strict liability to three categories:  manufacturing defects, design defects, and failures to warn.*FN1  Recognizing such proof is not always possible to produce, Section 3 allows for proof by circumstantial evidence, in a manner similar to proof under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.  Section 3 provides:

§3 Circumstantial Evidence Supporting Inference of Product Defect

            It may be inferred that the harm sustained by the plaintiff was caused by a product defect existing at the time of sale or distribution, without proof of a specific defect, when the incident that harmed the plaintiff:

 

(a)                was of a kind that ordinarily occurs as a result of product defect; and

 

(b)               was not, in the particular case, solely the result of causes other than product defect existing at the time of sale or distribution.

Comment a provides the historical context for § 3:

This section traces its historical antecedents to the law of negligence, which has long recognized that an inference of negligence may be drawn in cases where he defendant’s negligence is the best explanation for the cause of an accident, even if the plaintiff cannot explain the exact nature of the defendant’s conduct.  See Restatement, Second, Torts § 328D.

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