402A vs. Restatement (Third) Analysis of Products Liability

Some of the analysis recommended in Restatement (Third) for products liability differs from the analysis which was recommended in 402A. Although a vast majority of jurisdictions still adhere to 402A, it is important to know the distinctions between the two approaches.

1. Different test for design defect claims

402A has endorsed the consumer expectations test for most design defect claims. Here, the plaintiff alleges that the product was unreasonably dangerous for its intended use and is in a condition not reasonably contemplated by the ultimate consumer.

Restatement (Third) primarily adopts the Risk/Utility Test and also requires a plaintiff to prove a reasonable alternative design which would have reduced or eliminated the risk that injured the plaintiff. Here, the trier of fact will weigh various factors including: the likelihood the the product design will cause injury, the gravity of the danger posed, the mechanical and economic feasibility of an improved design, the financial cost of an improved design, and the adverse consequences to the product and to the consumer that would result from an alternative design.

2. Reduction/Unification of Claims

Under 402A most strict liability claims are accompanied by claims for negligence, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and misrepresentation. Restatement (Third) advocates that a plaintiff should just make one unified claim of product defect. See Accompanying Claims to Defective Product under 402A for more information.

3. Categorization

Restatement (Third) creates three categories of product defects (manufacturing, design, and inadequate instructions or warnings). 402A does not have these categories and just has one long definition of when a product is defective.