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Publication Date


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Cleveland State Law Review


Ohio law, products liability


Enactment of the Ohio Product Liability Act (the “Act”), which took effect on January 5, 1988, created an exclusive statutory basis for all tort based product liability claims. The statute, while eliminating the term “strict liability in tort,” is primarily a codification of preexisting common law. The Act provides that product liability claims may be predicated on one of four theories: defects in manufacture or construction; defects in design or formulation; defect in warning or instruction, and failure to conform to representation. Each of these theories had previously been recognized by the courts. For example, the requirements for a cause of action predicated on a defect in design virtually mirror the former law of strict liability in tort. As with the former law, to prevail in a product liability claim the plaintiff must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, the existence of a defect at the time the product left the control of the manufacturer and that the defect was a proximate cause of the harm for which recovery is sought. Since its adoption, efforts to amend the Act have been ongoing. The most recent effort would, among other things, apply comparative fault principles to product liability claims and provide a defense based on substance abuse. In addition, preemptive federal legislation has been passed in both houses of Congress which would, if enacted, have a significant effect upon Ohio product liability law.The American Law Institute is now drafting a Restatement of Products Liability under the leadership of Co-Reporters James A. Henderson and Aaron D. Twerski. Drafts of several sections have been completed which, if adopted by the Institute, would represent a highly regarded source of new approaches to product liability law. If Ohio accepts the premises of this new Restatement, through amendment of the Act, the effect on the state's law of product liability would be significant.