Products Liability for Defective Athletic Equipment
It is not entirely fanciful to suggest that the demise of football as we know it will come about not from a lack of general interest but as a consequence of an economic truth--companies cannot make money manufacturing and selling football helmets. Products liability judgments received by seriously injured football players against helmet manufacturers make the sport of football an endangered species. Helmet manufacturers, saddled with huge and numerous products liability judgments, will pass on these costs to consumers. We may reach the point where football is simply too expensive to play. This chapter explores the legal theories available to sports participants injured by arguably defective sports equipment.
Generally, a person injured by an arguably defective, commercially supplied product has available at least three separate and distinct causes of action--negligence, breach of implied warranty, and strict liability in tort. In some cases, a fourth cause of action, a breach of an express warranty, is available.
The negligence cause of action in the products liability context is not much different from any other negligence-based cause of action. Manufacturers and sellers of products, like all others in the society, generally have a duty to act as reasonably prudent people would act under the same or similar circumstances. In the products liability setting, negligence typically takes one of three forms. One recurring form of negligence pertains to quality control. In this regard, an unreasonable failure to inspect for defects or to test the product is alleged. A second recurring form of negligence is that the design of the product is unreasonably unsafe. A third basis for showing negligent conduct is the manner in which the product is marketed. Here, the likely allegation is