Legal Memorandum: Manufacturer's Duty in a Product Liability Claim

Issue: Under New Jersey law, what are the duty to warn and open-and-obvious-danger defenses in product liability claims?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Product liability cases; Duty to warn; Manufacturer
Jurisdiction: New Jersey
Cited Cases: 212 N.J. Super. 155; 485 A.2d 305; 41 N.J. 272; 98 N.J. 198; 506 N.Y.S.2d 523; 94 N.J. 169; 531 A.2d 398
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

              In a New Jersey products liability case, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that "(1) the product was defective; (2) the defect existed when the product left the hands of the defendant; and (3) the defect caused injury to a reasonably foreseeable user."  O’Brien v. Muskin Corp., 94 N.J. 169, 463 A.2d 298, 303 (1983)(leading New Jersey products liability decision).  The duty of the product manufacturer to a foreseeable user includes warning of risks inherent in the use of that product.  Id., 463 A.2d at 303.

In Vallillo v. Muskin Corp., 212 N.J. Super. 155, 514 A.2d 528 (App. Div. 1986), the court summarized the appropriate analysis to be used in assessing products liability warning-related claims:

Ordinarily the resolution of an inadequate-warning products liability claim involves first the determination of the defect in a product sold or marketed by defendants, i.e. the evaluation of the adequacy of the warning, then an assessment of the plaintiff’s conduct, and finally a determination of how each may have proximately caused the accident.  These factors, and specifically the determination of how each factor may have contributed to the happening of an accident, are matters usually left for proof at trial.

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