Two recent decisions from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit “underscore the continuing erosion of the distinction between the doctrines of strict liability and negligence in Illinois product liability cases,” James W. Ozog and Ryan M. Frierott, partners in Goldberg Segalla’s Chicago office, write in IDC Quarterly. In their article, James and Ryan take a closer look at these two cases and explain their implications for manufacturers, insurers, and attorneys.
“In both cases, the Seventh Circuit found that the same evidence which created issues of fact as to a strict liability design defect also supported plaintiffs’ cases under the doctrine of negligent design,” they explain. The court went so far as to comment that “the distinction between strict liability and negligent design may sometimes be ‘illusory’.”
Both of the cases demonstrated that “the absence of distinction in proof requirements between a strict liability products case and a negligent design case” can have “a detrimental impact upon the potential liability of product manufacturers and designers.”
Jim and Ryan conclude that “To clarify and level the product liability playing field, it is time for Illinois to take another look at reform” — something state lawmakers have not attempted since a failed effort 20 years ago.