The following section from Day on Torts Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law​​​ is out of date and should not be used. It remains a part of this site for historical purposes only. An updated version of the book is available by subscription at (Additional information below.)

§63.10 Feasible Alternative Design

The Case: Potter v. Ford Motor Co., 213 S.W.3d 264 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006).

The Basic Facts: Plaintiff brought products liability action against the manufacturer of her vehicle.

The Bottom Line:

  • "Ford argues that 'to establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must prove 'the availability of a technologically feasible and practical alternative design that would have reduced or prevented the plaintiff's harm.''" Ford cites the case of Martin v. Michelin North America, Inc., 92 F. Supp.2d 745, 753 (E.D. Tenn. 2000) in support of this proposition. Ms. Potter responds by arguing that no Tennessee state court has stated that such a showing is required to establish a prima facie case under the Tennessee Products Liability Act. Ford does not dispute this proposition in its reply brief, nor does our independent research on Tennessee product liability law indicate otherwise." 213 S.W.3d. at 269.
  • "The Tennessee Products Liability Act, T.C.A. § 29-28-101 et seq., governs this case and it provides in relevant part:
    (a) A manufacturer or seller of a product shall not be liable for any injury to a person or property caused by the product unless the product is determined to be in a defective condition or unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the control of the manufacturer or seller.

    (b) In making this determination, the state of scientific and technological knowledge available to the manufacturer or seller at the time the product was placed on the market, rather than at the time of injury, is applicable. Consideration is given also to the customary designs, methods, standards and techniques of manufacturing, inspecting and testing by other manufacturers or sellers of similar products.
    [Tenn. Code Ann.] § 29-28-105." Id.
  • "Generally, the Tennessee cases stating what a plaintiff must show to establish a prima facie case for a defective product either quote, or closely track, the language of the statute above. See, e.g., Baker v. Promark Products West, Inc., [692 S.W.2d 844, 849 (Tenn. 1985)] ("Plaintiff of course must bear the initial burden of establishing that the product was 'in a defective condition or unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the control of the manufacturer or seller'"); Brown v. Crown Equipment Corp., 181 S.W.3d 268, 281 (Tenn. 2005);Jackson v. General Motors Corp., 60 S.W.3d 800, 805 (Tenn. 2001); Ray v. BIC Corp., [925 S.W.2d 527, 529 (Tenn. 1996)]; Rutherford v. Polar Tank Trailer, Inc., [978 S.W.2d 102, 104 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998)]." Id.
  • "Of course, evidence of a technologically feasible and practical alternative design that likely would have reduced or prevented plaintiff's harm will always be highly relevant and probative of the issue of whether a product was defective or unreasonably dangerous, as the language of [Tenn. Code Ann.] § 29-28-105(b) provides. Brown, 181 S.W.3d at 278; Hood v. Roadtec, Inc., 785 S.W.2d 359, 363 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1990). But while we have no quarrel with the outcome of the Martin case, we do not believe its statement quoted and relied upon by Ford accurately reflects the current state of Tennessee products liability law." Id. at 269-70.

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

The book is now available electronically by subscription at The new format allows us to keep the book current as new opinions are released. BirdDog Law also has John's Tennessee Law of Civil Trial and Compendium of Tennessee Tort Reform Statutes available by subscription, as well as multiple free resources to help Tennessee lawyers serve their clients

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