Date of Award


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Law, BA, BS




Political Science and Legal Studies

Faculty Advisor

Graham Kelder


The area of products liability has been the subject of intense debate for the past half-century, perhaps never more strongly than the decades comprising the second half of the twentieth century. Specifically, the 1970s was the decade that introduced the judicial community to this debate. In the 1970s and a few decades prior, consumerism skyrocketed to levels never seen before in the United States and in the world. Logically, this drastic increase in consumerism came with a drastic increase in products liability lawsuits. Manufacturing companies and corporations were forced to pay damages to injured parties at levels they never came close to prior. As a result, they used their wealth and power to influence legislatures to change the law in their favor. Courts, unbeholden to special interests, took the opposite approach to counteract this imbalance. The result was a decades-long back and forth of extremism. Depending on the time period and depending on the jurisdiction in question, there were two extremes: one that regularly ruled against corporations with drastic variations in punitive damage amounts that accomplished little to deter wrongful conduct, one of the purposes of tort law, and one that regularly ruled against plaintiffs with unreasonable, unconstitutional reform statutes and evidentiary standards. Throughout the past half-century, there has been what amounts to a “tug-of-war” process in which the judicial and legislative branches of government, both at the federal and state level, have caused a back and forth paradigm from a pro-plaintiff mindset to a pro-corporation one. The ideal way for products liability analysis to operate lies on a “middle ground” which society has failed to come close to reaching. In Part One of this paper, the facets of the corporate interest of limiting the scope of products liability as well as the plaintiff interest of holding manufacturers accountable for the harm that their products cause will be analyzed and evaluated for their effects on society as a whole. A specific focus will be paid to the economic consequences of these factions’ policies. In Part Two, a “middle ground” solution will be proposed that limits the harms that both have inflicted throughout the years and maximizes the benefits that both have contributed. These solutions, if enacted, will lead to a greater understanding of the roles and expectations of manufacturers and consumers in the future, thereby eliminating the possibility of the contrivation of gray areas for exploitative purposes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Included in

Torts Commons



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