You’ll think I mean “cash register” as a metaphor for a plaintiff’s verdict, when, in fact, I don’t.  I’m writing this blog for your consideration of expert witnesses in every phase of a product’s life, from the original idea to the point of sale to the consumer.

So often, our legal concept of the products liability case is limited to the manufacturer.  What was the original design?  Were there any scintillating, internal e-mails that forewarned of harm?  When and how were any design modifications implemented?  And, in response to these very logical questions, we line up our products liability expert witnesses and trot off to file the claim.

But, in our modern economy, adorned with multi-national manufacturers and a bouquet of 50 states wanting to create their own standards, we’re leaving off a point of analysis if we don’t consider where the client purchased the product.  What might be legal at one point-of-sale, might fail the product standards in another.

According to a recently announced case settlement, the jurisdictional standard can be as small as a city.  In the recent case in point, a national hardware store settled a pending lawsuit for selling a product made by an international manufacturer at a few of its stores in one city of one state.

What does this mean?

If you are in-house counsel, it could mean that you hire both local of counsel and a local expert witness to help you keep a finger on the pulse of progressive legislation and regulation.  Using an expert witness to keep counsel up-to-date within a multi-state or international corporation is an effective tool.  The expert witness with local specialization in spots that are business-strategic, high sales volume, or atypical regulatory can add prevention value.

If you are a plaintiff’s attorney, consultation with a products liability expert witness who is in step with local regulations can offer new ideas that could translate into additional defendants, more causes of action, and a greater probability of financial recovery.  You might be looking at a product under national standards, while stretching to make the more challenging case that the standards are outdated or insufficient.  With the assistance of the products liability expert, you might find that you can bolster that case, using the city as the standard that should apply, while bringing in a wealth of legislative findings, government-commissioned research, and black-and-white legal language.

The versatility of a products liability expert witness might surprise you.  The traditional topics still apply, from design to product launch.  But, with the potential that a product could be subject to varying state and local laws and regulations, you might want to consider using the products liability expert with localized expertise in everything from in-house consultation to expanding your theories of liability.

By: Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney