The Effect Of Product Liability On Engineers

1137 words - 5 pages

The Effect of Product Liability on Engineers
Sam Heithoff
Mechanical Systems Design
8-27-12

The objective of this paper is to show that while general law processes in America are wasteful and hinder people and companies, product liability is beneficial to engineers. Since the inception and revolution of product liability law, the engineering process has been affected. Through specific examples and firsthand accounts, it will be established that the relationship between product safety mandates and standard engineering practices is symbiotic.
America is a sue-happy country. A sentiment uttered by many patriots and internationals alike, there are even organizations formed purely to ...view middle of the document...

Through the patterned process of analyzing and correcting potentially hazardous product aspects, engineers account for all applications and possible failures [2]. Through three steps during the design process, engineers ensure and enhance safety. System design is the first step, when an engineer creates and analyzes the basic product architecture to maintain basic functionality. The following stage, parameter design, is used to incorporate safety with no excessive cost. For example, deciding on a material that provides improved performance and safety for the manufacturers. The final design step is the tolerance design stage. At this point, if safety regulations are not yet met, they are reached using a higher cost budget [2]. These steps are results of product liability law, especially step three of the design process. In general, this has enhanced the safety of products for the public. For example, experts believe that product liability has made automotive engineers more cautious in the design process [1]. This makes sense, since some of the largest product liability settlements in the last half century have been in the automotive industry. For instance, in the case Musick vs. Dorel Juvenile Group Inc. (2009), a faulty child safety seat caused a young girl brain damage during an auto accident. The family was awarded $50 million. Because of cautionary tales like this, engineers have improved their design methods to protect their companies and make the public safer.
Even with a perfectly safe design, a product easily becomes unsafe when manufactured improperly. Often times a manufacturing defect is an isolated incident among a batch of successful productions [2]. In this case, the bad products are rejected during quality control inspections and thrown out. On the occasion when a bad product reaches the public, that is when a company is at risk for product liability. For example, Geordie Markup vs. a tractor manufacturer (1993) was a case involving a man who severely injured his forearm on a protruding bolt on a tractor. The court found that the rear bumper did not meet manufacturer’s standards, and Markup settled for an undisclosed amount [2]. Since the product liability revolution in 1964, companies have adopted quality control practices to prevent accidents and their repercussions. In addition companies such as John Deere utilize design and manufacturing engineers to create products, and then completely separate teams of engineers to test the quality of each product before consumers have a chance to purchase it. This practice ensures safety for the public, and creates new jobs for engineers.
Quality control engineers are not the...

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