consumer expectations test

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A consumer expectations test is a standard used for determining if a design defect exists in a products liability tort case. The consumer expectation test imposes a liability on the seller of a product if the product is in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the consumer. The standard allows a jury to infer the existence of a defect if product fails to meet reasonable expectations of consumers. In a case where there is no evidence (direct or circumstantial) available to prove exactly what sort of manufacturing flaw existed, a plaintiff may establish their right to recover by proving that the product did not perform in keeping with the reasonable expectations of the user. A product falls beneath consumer expectations when the product fails under conditions concerning which an average consumer of that product could have fairly definite expectations.

The consumer expectations test is inappropriate where technical and mechanical defects are alleged which require understanding of precise behaviors of obscure components of products under complex circumstances of a particular accident.

Case Illustrations:

Lassen v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., 211 F. Supp. 3d 1267 (C.D. Cal. 2016)

In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, 754 F. Supp. 2d 1208 (C.D. Cal. 2010)

Miele v. American Tobacco Co., 2 A.D.3d 799, 770 N.Y.S.2d 386 (N.Y. App. Div. 2003)

[Last updated in April of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]