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When is a product inherently unsafe?

Texas has a well-developed body of law addressing the potential liability of manufacturers, distributors and sellers of products in the state when those products contain defects in their design or manufacture that make them unreasonably dangerous to users. Manufacturers in particular can be held accountable for the harm that their products may cause, and in some cases they can even be held strictly liable for the harm.

But not every instance of harm caused by a product can result in a claim against the manufacturer or seller based on product liability. The law also recognizes a long-standing legal doctrine known as "assumption of the risk" in which participants in certain activities or users of certain products are deemed to understand that those activities or things cannot be made completely safe. In the product realm, these goods are known as "inherently unsafe products."

Under Texas law, the specific list of inherently unsafe products is actually quite limited. According to the governing statute, these include:

  • sugar
  • castor oil
  • alcohol
  • tobacco
  • butter
  • oysters

The law defines these items as being meant for ordinary consumer personal consumption, but clearly some of them have built-in dangers, such as alcohol and tobacco, while others carry more indirect risks such as sugar (diabetes), butter (heart disease) and oysters (food poisoning). This is not to say, however, that a manufacturer of such products cannot be held liable if they cause harm. If the defect occurs during the manufacture, or the manufacturer warranted such a product and a breach of that warranty occurred, then in those circumstances a product liability cause of action may still be possible.

Whether you have suffered injury as a result of an unreasonably unsafe product is a determination subject to legal interpretation, and this post cannot cover all aspects of how such a determination can be made. A personal injury law firm experienced with product liability matters can assist you in determining whether you have a viable legal claim and providing you with legal advice on how to pursue it.

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