Legal Memorandum: Products Liability Claim in MA

Issue: In Massachusetts, what are the essential elements of a products liability claim?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Products liability claim; Essential elements; Negligence
Jurisdiction: Massachusetts
Cited Cases: 525 N.E.2d 1305; 377 N.E.2d 954; 228 F.2d 842; 525 N.E.2d 1317; 484 F. Supp. 1244; 387 N.E.2d 583; 516 N.E.2d 1171; 384 N.E.2d 1188; 462 N.E.2d 273; 331 N.E.2d 541; 691 N.E.2d 223
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2000

A plaintiff in a products liability case alleging negligence must establish the same essential elements as in a negligence case in general: (1) a duty on the part of the defendant to protect the plaintiff from the injury forming the basis of the complaint, (2) failure of the defendant to perform that duty, and (3) injury to the plaintiff proximately caused by such failure. See generally 3 Massachusetts Jurisprudence, Products Liability §§ 33:98, :110 (Law. Co-op. 1992).  The plaintiff sustains his or her burden of proof by introducing evidence on each of these elements from which a reasonable person may conclude that there is a greater probability than not that the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from causes for which the defendant was responsible.  Carey v. General Motors Corp., 377 Mass. 736, 740, 387 N.E.2d 583, 585 (1979).  The plaintiff has this burden to prove his or her allegations of injury as a result of the defendant’s negligence whether the defendant is charged with improper design, inadequate warning, or both.  Hayes v. Ariens Co., 391 Mass. 407, 414, 462 N.E.2d 273, 278 (1984).

With regard to the duty and breach elements,

“[u]nder our law in Massachusetts, the manufacturer of a product which the manufacturer knows or should know is dangerous or is in a dangerous condition or is likely […]

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