Subsequent to the landmark case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc., the American judicial system has become encumbered by a staggering number of products liability actions. A significant number of these cases involve allegations of inadequate or nonexistent warnings. Given society's increasing reliance on chemical products, the potential for additional claims from accidental exposure to or improper use of toxic chemicals in the home, the workplace, and the environment is immense, notwithstanding the best efforts of the chemical industry to minimize the risk of injury. The result is a huge cost to manufacturers -both from paying damage claims and incurring legal expenses in resisting claims. This Article begins with a description of the general elements of an adequate warning, utilizing the Restatement (Second) of Torts as a guide. It then focuses upon the learned intermediary doctrine, an exception to the general rules concerning adequate warning, to determine if its rationale permits application in other contexts. The discussion then shifts to an analysis of the duty to warn under the Uniform Product Liability Act (UPLA), drafted by the United States Department of Commerce, which suggests that the doctrine should be applied to hazardous chemical manufacturers. Finally, an analysis of the pertinent case law determines the parameters of this emerging doctrine and the extent to which these parameters have mirrored the guidelines set forth in the UPLA.


Symposium: Toxic Waste and Environmental Law

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