Product Liability: A Brief History of Its Early Origins

Denis Stearns begins a discussion of product liability law with a brief explanation of its origins: Product liability law evolved from contract law, with the first decisions strongly favoring manufacturers. For a very long time, the “general rule” was that a manufacturer could not be sued, even for negligence, by someone with whom he had no contract. This was called the “rule of privity,” and it was most famously set forth in an 1842 case that is bane of every first year law student’s existence—Winterbottom v. Wright.

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