Legal Memorandum: Liability of a Seller or Distributor in MA

Issue: In Massachusetts, when may a seller or distributor be liable in a products liability action?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Liability of a seller or distributor; Products liability action
Jurisdiction: Massachusetts
Cited Cases: 787 F.2d 726; 616 N.E.2d 1081
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2000

To hold a manufacturer, seller or other party in the chain of distribution accountable, there must first be proof that the defendant manufactured, sold, or was in some other way responsible for the product, since the particular defendant must owe a duty to the particular plaintiff in order to be liable.  Carrier v. Riddell, Inc., 721 F.2d 867, 868-69 (1st Cir. 1983); 3 Massachusetts Jurisprudence, Products Liability §§ 33:69 (Law. Co-op. 1992) (citing 1 American Law of Products Liability 3d § 5:1).  A seller or distributor of products manufactured by another is not liable in a negligence action, however, unless it knew or had reason to know of the dangerous condition of the product, Enrich v. Windmere Corp., 416 Mass. 83, 86, 616 N.E.2d 1081, 1084 (1993), or unless it held itself out to the public as the product’s manufacturer, Laaperi v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 787 F.2d 726, 731 n.2 (1st Cir. 1986).


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