Legal Commentary on Negligence
General Motors has recalled 224,000 1998/1999 Cadillac Deville Sedans. As a result of a defective side impact sensor module, the vehicle's airbag may either unintentionally deploy or not deploy at all. To date, there have been 306 reports of the sensor malfunction. Of these, 61 of the incidents have resulted in minor injuries such as cuts and bruises. Deemed as "the responsive thing to do", General Motors started notifying owners of the vehicle by mail commencing Sept. 25th, 2000. At present, the requisite replacement parts are out of stock, as they were no longer manufactured. However, General Motors has commissioned the original manufacturer of the sensor to produce a replacement part, of which will be available in the first quarter of 2001.
In this potential product liability case, the three parties involved as defendants are the Manufacturer of the Sensor, General Motors, the vendor of the vehicle. The plaintiffs of the case would be the buyer/consumer of the Cadillac Deville Sedan and/or any injured parties who incurred damages as a result of the faulty side impact sensor.
As a manufacturer of goods, General Motors has an obligation imposed by society to meet a standard of care to the ultimate consumer of its products. Within the context of product liability law, General Motors is liable to the ultimate consumer of the goods where it can be proven in a court of law that the manufacturer was negligent in the following legislative principles (Willes, 1998):
a) The manufacturing of the said goods.
b) The goods manufactured by the company have an intrinsic danger associated with them.
c) The manufacturer of the said goods failed in its responsibility to warn the consumer of the danger.
If General Motors does not meet the aforementioned standards of care to the ultimate consumer, than General Motors can be sued by the owner of the vehicle (plaintiff) under tort law for negligence and/or contract law for a breach of contract. Furthermore, General Motors may also be found liable in its failure to meet the duty to warn of a continuing nature. However, the scope of the paper limits the analysis exclusively to establishing negligence.
In order to successfully establish General Motor's negligence, the product liability case must comply with the following established principles:
1) Is there a Duty of Care toward the injured party?
Indisputably, General Motors has a duty of care. The responsibility of a manufacturer was established in Donaghue v. Stevenson, (1932) A.C. 562, which established the principle that manufacturers have the duty to ensure that the ultimate consumers of their product do not sustain injuries as a result of the use of their products. Manufacturers of goods and services are subject to a high duty of care given that these businesses commercially profit from the purchase and use of their products.
2) What is the standard of care...