Despite the potential risk that accompanies the release of every new product into the marketplace, many manufacturers are woefully ill-prepared when it comes to product liability prevention, states Randall L. Goodden in his new book Lawsuit! Reducing the Risk of Product Liability for Manufacturers.
While it is impossible to completely deter the possibility of a product liability suit from arising, "surely with the best efforts in place the chances could be substantially minimized, and the manufacturer would also be in the best position to win much of what might surface," the author writes.
Such is the goal of Lawsuit!: to outline some of those policies and procedures manufacturers should have in place. Goodden ought to know. He served for more than 25 years at a large manufacturing firm as a director and then corporate vice president in charge of quality and product reliability, new product development and litigation management. Today he lectures on both product safety and product liability prevention.
This book outlines risk-reduction strategies manufacturers can implement across numerous departments to mitigate costly product liability. In what should come as no surprise, a healthy number of pages are devoted to the new product introduction process. "In a product liability lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiff will be interested in determining whether the manufacturer appears to have been a concerned and caring company and took the time necessary to assure the product they developed was safe and reliable," Goodden states.
Important to that process are design reviews. In Chapters 4 and 5 Goodden provides recommendations on the objectives of the design reviews as well as the makeup of the design review team. Importantly, he suggests the creation of two teams -- one focused on manufacturability and product reliability and another dedicated to hazards analysis and risk assessment.
Other product development-related recommendations include:
- Make sure design reviews are well documented "for internal reference, as well as to prove such responsible efforts really took place."
- Don't assume a failure mode and effects analysis satisfies a product safety and liability objective.
- Fully test products to prove out the design.