Legal Memorandum: Product Placed "in the Stream of Commerce"

Issue: Under Illinois law, what determines whether an item being loaded for transport was "in the stream of commerce" or not?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Stream of commerce; Product; Products liability
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 595 N.E.2d 670; 172 Ill. Dec. 309; 321 N.E.2d 744; 176 Ill. Dec. 800; 558 N.E.2d 626
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2001

Illinois has adopted the Restatement (Second) of Torts general rule of strict products liability, tort liability that extends to one engaged in commerce who supplies to another a defective product that causes injury.  Johnson v. Danville Cash & Carry Lumber Co., 200 Ill. App. 3d 196, 558 N.E.2d 626, 146 Ill. Dec. 663 (1990).  This rule extends to the entire chain of commerce.

One of the key factors in determining a party’s liability under this theory is whether the party has placed the product in the stream of commerce.  This principle has been used by courts to distinguish a casual or one-time seller of a product from a defendant who is engaged in the business of selling products.  A product need not be mass produced or placed on shelves in many locations to be considered in the stream of commerce, however; "[i]t is sufficient if the defendant is engaged in the business of selling the product and markets it to the buyer for the buyer’s use."  Boddie v. Litton Unit Handling Sys., 118 Ill. App. 3d 520, 455 N.E.2d 142, 74 Ill. Dec. 112 (1983). 

A product will be deemed in the stream of commerce either if it is found to be a necessary incident to the products that the defendant sells or if it is an integral part of the defendant’s marketing operation.  Gilliland v. Rothermel, 83 Ill. App. 3d 116, 403 N.E.2d 759, 38 Ill. Dec. 528 (1980).  Thus, in Bainter […]

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