Designing Safer Products

Corporate Responses to Product Liability Law and Regulation

by George C. Eads, Peter Reuter

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Analyzes ways in which firms have responded to recent changes in pressures to design safer products, using interviews with product safety officials in major manufacturers and extensive analysis of legal and scholarly literatures. 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 creation of new corporate product safety units. Regulation has been of more questionable effectiveness than has strict liability in inducing better design practices. Argues that federal product liability legislation will have marginal effect, despite the current variation in state law on the matter. Discusses the factors that influence the effectiveness of corporate product safety units and suggests that combining product safety with quality assurance may be the optimal strategy for a firm.

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