Product liability is the responsibility a manufacturer has to build an item that meets adequate safety standards. Any case in which a manufacturer or assembler of an item is at least partially responsible for causing an injury would be a product liability case.
Airplanes and helicopters are complex machines, and oftentimes, it takes several different manufacturers to produce a single one. In fact, manufacturers of seemingly innocuous products such as rivets or screws may not even know their products have been used in an aircraft. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon them to ensure high quality and clear instructions for installation and use.
If a product liability claim is to be made, the burden to prove that the craft, or a component of it, was defective lies with the plaintiff. There are three elements to proving liability:
- The product caused the injury or in a wrongful death suit, the death of the decedent.
- The product was defective at the time it left the control of its manufacturer.
- The product was used in a manner that was reasonably foreseeable.
There are three types of product defects. The first is physical defects in design and manufacturing due to poor quality standards or manufacturing errors. The other two are the failure by the manufacturer to provide adequate instructions for the use of the product and the failure to warn of any potential dangers such use could entail.
In the area of aviation law, a product liability case in the U.S. may be regulated by the General Aviation Revitalization Act, which places an 18-year statute of repose on claims regarding small aircraft. That means manufacturers of both aircraft and aircraft components are immune to litigation if the product is over 18 years old.