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Jury Instructions in South Florida Product Liability Cases

In any South Florida personal injury case, one of the judge’s primary roles is to instruct the jury on the applicable law of the case. To help make sure that all Florida judges are providing similar instructions to juries across the state, a set of standard jury instructions has been created. The standard jury instructions provide the jurors with guidance, asking the jurors to answer individual questions that eventually lead to the ultimate conclusion. Once the jurors answer the questions, the judge will announce the decision and render a verdict.

In Florida, there are several types of product liability claims, including manufacturing defect and design defect claims. When a Florida product liability case is brought under a theory of strict liability, Standard Jury Instruction 403.7 applies. Strict liability can be seen as “liability without fault,” meaning that a defendant manufacturer can be found liable without a determination that the manufacturer was negligent. In other words, the mere fact that the product was unreasonably dangerous is sufficient to establish liability.

Instruction 403.7 pertains to both design defect and manufacturing defect claims, and it allows for a manufacturer to be held liable when a product is “unreasonably dangerous.” The instruction defines an “unreasonably dangerous” product as one that “fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or when used in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer and/or the risk of danger in the design outweighs the benefits.”

Instruction 403.7 has been the subject of some confusion because it seems to provide two different bases of liability. First, there is liability if the product does not perform as safely as a customer would expect. And second, there is liability if the product design’s risk of danger outweighs its benefits. Indeed, these are the two predominant tests for product liability, and most jurisdictions apply one over the other.

Interestingly, while the Standard Jury Instructions provide for both tests, the Florida Supreme Court recently determined that the consumer-expectation test is the applicable test in Florida product liability cases. Indeed, the comments to instruction 403.7 acknowledge that there is some uncertainty in the law, and they explain that the drafters of the Instructions take no position on which test Florida courts should use.

Risk-Utility Versus Consumer-Expectation

If given the choice, most Florida product liability plaintiffs would opt for the consumer-expectation test because it does not place a burden on the plaintiff. In assessing whether the risks of a design outweigh the benefits, the risk-utility test requires that a plaintiff present evidence that a safe, reasonable alternative exists. This may be difficult depending on the product at issue, and it likely requires the presentation of an expert witness.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a South Florida product liability lawsuit. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cecere Santana have extensive experience assisting victims with seeking the compensation they need and deserve. To learn more about your rights as a victim, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Residents Who Engage in Recreational Activities on Another Party’s Land May Do So at Their Own Risk (With a Few Notable Exceptions), Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 9, 2017.

Cecere Santana Can Help with Hurricane Irma Property Insurance Claims, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 12, 2017.