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Commercial Law Litigation Products Liability

Will the CT Supreme Court Reinvent Design Defect Law?
Part One of a Two-Part Article

Despite the long-standing principle in Connecticut that product liability law is premised on strict liability, the state's Supreme Court is now considering whether it should abandon its strict product liability premise for design defect claims, and replace it with section 2(b) of the Restatement (Third) of Torts.

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For over half of a century, Connecticut product liability law has been premised on strict liability. See Garthwait v. Burgio, 153 Conn. 284, 289 (1965) (holding that a manufacturer culpable even when it “has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of [its] product”). Manufacturers are in a better position than the injured party to design their products safely and absorb the cost of injury. The Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Izarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., released early in 2016, reaffirmed this keystone of product liability jurisprudence when the court held that the modified consumer expectation test is the primary test for design defect claims. See Izarelli, 321 Conn. 172, 193 (2016) (setting forth the standards “for a strict product liability action based on defective design generally.”).

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