Monday, April 3, 2006
One thing I've done this year and last in teaching Products Liability is assign an essay midway through the term, asking students to describe something with which they have disagreed and to propose a solution (whether legislative, judicial, or otherwise). I finished up grading them today and, as last year, it's a very interesting exercise.
Also as last year, the substantial leader in issues (7 out of 31) with which students disagree is the absence of a regulatory compliance defense. The Owen et al. casebook includes Metzgar v. Playskool, 30 F.3d 459 (3d Cir. 1994), in which an infant choked to death on a small play block that was in compliance with all relevant regulations and which had never caused choking before. The Third Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment.
The concept of regulations as a floor, rather than a ceiling, is clearly problematic to a substantial percentage of law students, at least here. They discuss the problems executives at Playskool face, and how frustrating it must be to do what seems like the right thing, and yet still face exposure in strict liability (humanizing the defendants, if you will).
If you were in a Products Liability course and your professor gave a similar assignment, what would you discuss? Comments are, as always, open.