What Does Defective Design Mean?

Defective Design Definition

In legal terms, a defect is an imperfection that is so great that the machinery, product, or written document cannot be used safely. A defective design in a product is one that is so great, the product cannot be utilized for the purposes intended or is even made hazardous as a result of the defect, imperfection, or design flaw. For example, an automobile that is sold with faulty brakes has a defect and is dangerous – if not life threatening – to whomever buys it.

When Does Defective Design Happen?

A design defect can happen in the whole design of the product or in the production of a particular individual product, not the entirety of products. For example, if one car has faulty brakes, it doesn’t necessarily mean all cars in that make and model have faulty brakes. But if the car’s design is itself flawed, then all the cars must be recalled in order to deal with the issue.

There are three different types of legal defective designs:

  1. Latent design defect – This is a defect that is not easily or readily observable by the buyer of a product, such as faulty brakes on a car.
  2. Patent defect – This defect is obvious and immediately visible during a reasonable inspection, such as a car with no seatbelts.
  3. Fatal defect – This type of design defect is so bad that it will immediately nullify the contract under which the buyer purchased the product, such as a car that does not run or is inherently dangerous.

Defective Design Law

A manufacturer’s liability pertaining to a design defect occurs when the product poses a foreseeable risk when it was manufactured, sold to the public, and used for these intended purposes as directed. In many of the 50 states, prospective plaintiffs may also have to prove that these risks could have been avoided or that the company failed to properly warn the public of the dangers of their product.

Plaintiffs may also have to prove that there was a reasonable alternative design for the product, which met the criteria of:

  • The new design was feasible and the manufacturer had the ability to produce it
  • Economical in that these modifications would not have been catastrophic for the manufacturer
  • The new design was compatible with the product’s intended purpose and would still perform the intended function.

Any violation of design defect laws can result in plaintiffs having course to file suit against the manufacturer.