Products liability, as the name suggests, refers to the legal responsibility of manufacturers and sellers to compensate buyers, users, and even innocent bystanders for injuries or damages that result from defects in the goods that were purchased. Although the responsibility for flawed products falls primarily on the manufacturer, liability may be imposed on the retailer, wholesaler, some other middleman, or even, as is discussed herein, the advertising and public relations people who provide information to the consumer public about the products.
In this context, the law affecting liability for product-related injuries and damages has changed dramatically. "Let the buyer beware" (caveat emptor), a phrase mentioned frequently in these pages, is being replaced in products liability cases by "strict liability" (i.e., liability even without the showing of negligence). This means that the seller might be held responsible in the eyes of the law for any and all defective or dangerous products that unduly threaten a consumer's safety.
An illustration can be found in the Restatement of Torts:
A manufactures automobiles. He advertises in newspapers and magazines that the glass in his cars is "shatterproof." B reads this advertising, and in reliance upon it purchases from a retail dealer an automobile manufactured by A. While B is driving the car, a stone thrown up by a passing truck strikes the windshield and shatters it, injuring B. A is subject to strict liability to B. 1
Products liability is one of the fastest growing areas of contemporary American law. More than a million claims for product-caused injuries are made a year, and half of these involve litigation. 2