April 01, 2011

By Theodore J. Leopold, Leslie M. Kroeger, and Diana L. Martin

Due to an aggressive campaign seeking to legislatively overrule the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in D’Amario v. Ford, 806 So. 2d 424 (Fla. 2001), the decision may no longer be good law by the time this article is published. The abolition of this decision, which held that the fault of an automobile manufacturer in a crashworthiness case ordinarily may not be apportioned with the fault of the driver of the vehicle who allegedly caused the initial crash,(1) will be harmful not only to victims who suffer enhanced injuries in automobile accidents, but also to Florida’s consumers. 

Crashworthiness Doctrine
In the 1960s and 1970s, the products liability tort cause of action was developed to allow consumers injured by products to recover for their injuries according to a defect-based, rather than conduct-based, standard.(2) Under this new cause of action, a consumer could recover for injuries caused by a product defect, regardless of how the defect arose, because the action focused on the dangerous condition of the product, not the conduct that gave rise to the manifestation of the defect.(3) This law broadened the class of consumers injured by products that could recover for their damages from those that could recover only under traditional causes of action for negligence, breach of warranty, and fraud(4) by focusing only on the product and not on anyone’s conduct.(5)

The full article can be read here.

(1) D’Amario v. Ford, 806 So. 2d 424, 426 (Fla. 2001).

(2) John C.P. Goldberg & Benjamin C. Zipursky, The Easy Case for Products Liability Law: A Response to Professors Polinsky and Shavell, 123 Harv. L. Rev. 1919, 1923 (2010). 

(3) Id. at 1923-24. 

(4) Id. 

(5) Thomas V. Van Flein, Allocation of Fault and Products Liability: A Comment on Safety Products and Human Error, 19 Alaska L. Rev. 141, 154 (2002).