Designing Safer Products

Corporate Responses to Product Liability Law and Regulation

by George C. Eads, Peter Reuter

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This paper, which appeared in the Journal of Products Liability, v. 7, 1985, is excerpted from a larger study with the same title, published as RAND report R-3022-ICJ. It analyzes ways in which firms have responded to recent changes in pressures to design safer products, based on interviews with product safety officials in major manufacturers and extensive analysis of legal and scholarly literature. Shifts to strict liability and more stringent regulation during the last 15 years have increased pressure to invest in safety assurance procedures, as evidenced by the creation of new corporate product safety units. Regulation has been of more questionable effectiveness than has strict liability in inducing better design practices. The authors argue that federal product liability legislation will have marginal effect, despite the current variation in state law on the matter; discuss the factors that influence the effectiveness of corporate product safety units; and suggest that combining product safety with quality assurance may be the optimal strategy for a firm.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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