The Florida Supreme Court recently decided to reinstate a $6.6 million
jury verdict in
Union Carbide v. Aubin, an asbestos case, while clarifying Florida law with respect to product
liability and defective product claims.
The court’s decision re-emphasized Florida law with respect to the
“consumer expectation test,” which was established in 1976
in the case of
West v. Caterpillar and which continued in 2006’s
McConnell v. Union Carbide Corp. Under this decision, plaintiffs will no longer need to propose reasonable
alternative designs via a “risk utility test” in order for
their case to be successful. While this test has previously imposed a
higher burden on plaintiffs attempting to prove design defects, the October
29th’s 5-2 ruling in the case of
Union Carbide v. Aubin has deemed them unnecessary. The decision was an overall win for consumers.
Plaintiffs in defective design cases will once again be able to prevail
by proving the manufacturer made a defective and unreasonably dangerous
product which ultimately caused harm to the consumer.
According to Kelley/Uustal Attorney
Eric Rosen, this decision has effectively returned the status quo in Florida to the
“consumer expectations test” after confusion following the
Third District’s conflicting decision.
Traditionally in Florida the test you use is “The product is unreasonably
dangerous because it failed to perform as the consumer expects. It focuses
on the manufacturer’s conduct and emphasizes the crucial role Manufacturers
play in the expectations of consumers,” said Rosen.
The Supreme Court’s decision was based on the idea that manufacturers
should be held responsible for compensating consumers who have suffered
injury from unreasonably dangerous products.
Rosen notes that although the alternative design defense is still available
to manufacturers, the burden to prove an alternative design no longer
rests on the plaintiff. In other words, the manufacturer is the expert
of their product, not the consumer. Plaintiffs may still propose a better
design, but it will not be a requirement to prove their case.
To learn more about this new development, please click