3D Printers raise interesting liability issues

3D printers have finally become affordable to many consumers. With 3D printiing a user can print out actual products like clothing and guitars. But if there is some defect in the product you just printed and you get injured, who do you sue?

Nora Freeman Engstrom, associate professor at Stanford University.tackled this question in an essay in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review

This analysis suggests that if home 3-D printing really does take off, PL (product liability) litigation as we know it may, in large measure, dry up. And, if it doesn’t, the technology threatens to unsettle the theoretical justification for product liability law’s development.

Engstrom explains further

Under current “strict liability” product law, a person who is injured by a defective product can win a lawsuit without necessarily showing that the maker or distributor of the product was negligent.

This means,” she said, “if you fall ill from eating tainted peanut butter you purchased at, say, Wal-Mart, you can sue Wal-Mart for your injuries – and you can prevail in that lawsuit even if Wal-Mart used all possible care in the peanut butter’s selection, storage and sale.”

On the other hand, Engstrom said, a person injured by a home-printed product would likely only be left with a negligence-based lawsuit.  Negligence focuses on proving that the manufacturer, distributor or seller of the product was careless – a higher hurdle.

To read more details see 3-D Printing and Product Liability: Identifying the Obstacles