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How does Illinois law define a product defect?

Illinois imposes strict product liability laws on sellers and manufacturers of defective products. The seller or manufacturer of a defective product will be held responsible for any injury or damage suffered by a consumer who uses that product.

The product can have a manufacturing flaw, informational defect, inadequate warnings or instructions or defective design. A manufacturing defect may affect the entire product or a particular unit of the product that was damaged during the manufacturing process.

However, if design renders a product unreasonably dangerous, the consumer can file a lawsuit on the basis of a design defect. Two tests are used to determine if a product has a design defect. The first test is known as a "consumer expectation" test, which requires the consumer to think beyond normal expectations for product use. A successful test requires a consumer to look beyond the ordinary knowledge or commonly known facts about the product and apply that standard to the damages reasonably suffered.

The second test is known as a "risk-utility test." Under this test, manufacturers can be held liable if the product in question can possibly cause injury or damage to the consumer during normal use. If a product design's inherent risk of danger outweighs the benefits of the product, the manufacturer can be held responsible for producing dangerous products.

An informational defect addresses a manufacturer that fails to provide sufficient information regarding the potential side-effects or risks of a particular product. Failure to provide adequate information can lead to serious consequences to consumers and liability for negligence to manufacturers. For example, inadequate warning or instruction on prescribed medicines or medical products can cause allergy, infection or disability to the victim or wrongful death, in worst case scenarios.

Source: Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions - Civil, "Types of Defects," accessed April 23, 2015

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