A manufacturer who places into the stream of commerce a defective product which causes injury may be held strictly liable. In New York, there are three distinct claims for strict products liability: (1) a manufacturing defect, which results when a mistake in manufacturing renders a product that is ordinarily safe dangerous so that it causes harm; (2) a warning defect, which occurs when the inadequacy or failure to warn of a reasonably foreseeable risk accompanying a product causes harm; and (3) a design defect, which results when the product as designed is unreasonably dangerous for its intended use.
A mass shooting of passengers occured on a Long Island Railroad commuter train. The victims filed a complaint against a bullet manufacturer alleging strict liability and negligence against it after its bullets were used in a shooting on a train. They allege that the bullets used in the shootings were designed by the bullet manufacturer to enhance the injuries of their victims. The lower court ultimately dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Could the bullet manufacturer be sued?
The court held that bullet manufacturer could not be held strictly liable on the basis that the ammunition was defectively designed and the design and manufacture of the bullets were inherently dangerous because the bullets were not in defective condition nor were they unreasonably dangerous for their intended use where they were purposely designed to expand on impact and cause severe wounding. Furthermore, the court found that the victimes failed to state a cause of action for negligent marketing and manufacture because the bullet manufacturer did not have a legal duty to control the distribution of the ammunition nor did it owe a legal duty to appellants to protect against the gunman's horrible action.