Consumer Expectation Test vs. Risk Benefit Test: Proving A Design Defect In Product Liability Cases

Under California product liability law, if you have been injured by a defective product, it may be for any of the three reasons: the product has a manufacturing defect, the product has a design defect, or the manufacturer failed to provide an adequate warning or instruction to warn of the danger.
Even if the product that injured you was manufactured exactly as the manufacturer intended, you may still be able to sue the manufacturer and other parties in the chain of distribution for making the product defective by design.
“If a line or series of products are inherently defective, it means that the products have a design defect,” explains our Anaheim product liability attorney at the Compass Law Group, LLP “If a product has a manufacturing defect, on the other hand, it means that the product was not manufactured as the defendant intended.”

How to determine and prove a design defect?

While proving that a product has a manufacturing defect is quite simple – all you have to do is compare its design to the design of similar products in the same line of products, determining whether a product is defectively designed is something only an experienced product liability attorney in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Torrance, or elsewhere in California can do.
Luckily, there are two tests to determine that the entire line or series of products have a design defect. To successfully establish that the manufacturer is liable for your injuries and damages, your legal case must meet the requirements of one of the tests, the consumer expectation test or the risk benefit test.

The consumer expectation test

This test is the most popular test to determine whether or not a product is defectively designed, because it applies to product liability cases when expectations of the product’s safety design, functioning, and performance can be properly evaluated by jurors.
When expectations of the product’s safety design are beyond the jurors’ common knowledge, and the design of the product cannot be judged based on everyday experience of the product’s users, the consumer expectation test does not apply.
What the consumer expectation test can establish is that the product, which you believe was defectively designed, failed to perform as safely as an ordinary user or consumer would expect or has a right to expect. The test evaluates the product’s safety design when the product is used in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
However, merely establishing that the product has a certain defective design is not enough to hold the manufacturer liable for your injuries and damages unless that particular design defect caused your injuries.
Since the goal of the consumer expectation test is to prove that the manufacturer failed to meet the reasonable safety expectations of an ordinary consumer, expert witness testimony is limited to establishing the link between the design defect and the plaintiff’s injury as well as proving that the product failed as it was marketed.
One more thing to note is that the manufacturer’s knowledge of the risk of harm at the time of manufacturing and distributing the product is not relevant to the product liability case when the plaintiff can successfully establish that the product’s safety design failed to meet an ordinary user’s expectations.

Risk benefit test

Even if the product successfully passes the consumer expectation test, the manufacturer of the product may still be held liable for your injuries if it fails the risk benefit test, which is intended to determine whether or not the risk of danger of the design outweigh its benefits.
Judges and juries will look into the following factors to conduct the risk benefit test:

  • The extent of the danger imposed by the design;
  • The risk that the danger could cause injury when the product is used in a reasonably foreseeable manner;
  • The possibility of manufacturing the same product with a safer alternative design;
  • The financial cost of a safer design;
  • Potential risks to consumers from the alternative design.

Schedule a free consultation with our skilled product liability lawyers in California to determine whether or not the product that caused your injuries was defective by design.


Find out if you have a case in a few minutes, call us at (310) 289-7126

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