“It is common for a plaintiff to assert a strict product liability claim against a product manufacturer even when there is no evidence of a defect. The malfunction theory is the means in which a strict product liability cause of action may get to the jury.
“This theory of liability permits a plaintiff to prove a defect without direct evidence if: (1) the plaintiff can provide sufficient circumstantial evidence of a defect; and (2) eliminate reasonable alternative causes for the incident. In such cases, however, the question that remains is whether the plaintiff is required to present expert testimony regarding the allegedly defective condition.”
Ryan M. Frierott, and Staci A. Williamson, partners in Goldberg Segalla’s Product Liability Practice Group, tackled this question in this article co-authored for Law360. The article explores the recent Connecticut appellate decision in White v. Mazda Motor of Am., 139 Con. App. 39, which should receive further discussion when the Connecticut Supreme Court issues its opinion, since plaintiffs were granted certiorari following the appellate decision.
“At first glance, the malfunction theory seems to provide plaintiffs an ‘out’ when a defect cannot be pinpointed. The case law suggests, however, that the malfunction theory carries with it its own additional burden on a plaintiff to undertake an analysis that rules out other potential explanations for the incident. It is the defense’s job to ensure that the plaintiff’s analysis in excluding all other causes is grounded in truth and fact, through the collection of all available data and adherence to the scientific method.”