§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.[Tenn. Code Ann.] § 29-28-105." Id.
(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.
- "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.