When Florida residents are injured by a product that they buy at their local grocery store, product liability laws allow them to sue the store for damages. But what happens when someone buys a product printed from a 3-D printer? Do the same laws apply?
By utilizing a computer screen and a 3-D printer, users can create three-dimensional objects affordably and conveniently, in the comfort of their own homes. With this technology, virtually anyone can become a manufacturer of products ranging from shoes to guns. 3-D printers are still relatively new, but if their growth explodes, consumers could have a legal nightmare on their hands.
Strict liability typically applies when consumers are injured by defective products. However, when a consumer buys a product created from a 3-D printer, negligence must be proven and this is no easy task. The reason why different laws apply is because of what is called the commercial-casual divide.
Product liability law applies to commercial products only. However, many consumers — such as stay-at-home moms or young kids looking to make a few extra bucks — will use their 3-D printers for casual selling only. Therefore, they are protected from lawsuits from those who buy their products.
However, some legal experts say that there is actually a fine line between negligence and strict liability as far as 3-D printers are concerned. Many people are touting them as the next big thing, so in a few years, companies may turn to them to create products for the mass market.
The laws can be confusing. Therefore, those injured by any type of product may have legal recourse. It’s important to seek advice as to whether or not a product liability claim may be viable. The manufacturer could be held liable and financial recovery may be available depending on the extent of the damages.
Source: Stanford Report , “3-D printing creates murky product liability issues, Stanford scholar says” Clifton B. Parker, Dec. 12, 2013