Injury from consumer products falls under the legal doctrine of strict products liability. This means that manufacturers or sellers of commercial products are under a strict duty to produce quality goods that will not harm, injure or kill unsuspecting consumers. Corporate manufacturers must maintain a higher standard of care than the “reasonable person” standard imputed to ordinary people. In addition, consumer product manufacturers are afforded little, if any, defensive strategies in a lawsuit by an injured plaintiff. Under strict liability, if the product injured the plaintiff, the manufacturer is culpable. He many not assert that he exercised every precaution available in the design or assembly of the product as strict liability does not afford defendants such arguments.
In an effort to hold manufacturers responsible for their products, the federal government implemented a website on which injured plaintiffs could report unsafe products and share hazardous experiences with others. The website also offers detailed, up-to-the-minute information on product recalls and provides consumers with the exact product batch numbers of any recalled consumer products.
Despite the website’s purpose of providing safety information for consumers, it has been widely unpopular with businesses and manufacturers unhappy about seeing their product defects online for public viewing. The website has only been active since March of this year and was mandated by Congress in its Consumer Safety Product Improvement Act.
Last month, the House Appropriations Committee approved a funding cut for the website virtually eliminating all resources to keep the website active. Advocates of the cuts argue that the website is poorly executed and mismanaged while simultaneously disproportionately harming businesses at a time when business needs our help the most. However, the opposing argument is clear: don’t make faulty products and the website will be unnecessary.
The website offers a different approach than in the past in that problems with consumer products are reported by consumers before a formal investigation is every conducted. In the past, consumer issues were kept confidential and classified until a formal investigation could be completed. Under the new system, consumers post their grievance upon the site and the manufacturer has ten days to respond or offer an explanation. Once the ten-day period has lapsed, the consumer complaint is posted along with the manufacturer’s explanation if one has been provided.
Those interested in viewing the consumer product website can do so here: SaferProducts.gov.