Tanenbaum Keale LLP associate Timothy Freeman recently wrote a Law360 Expert Analysis looking at optional safety features in the context of product liability litigation. The article discusses why optional safety features exist, why they are beneficial to consumers and manufacturers, and how they are used and misused in product liability litigation.

“When it comes to optional safety features, it is often argued in litigation that there should be no such thing as an optional safety feature — if it improves safety under any circumstances, it must be standard. Accordingly, a design defect allegation is inevitable if a person is injured and an optional safety feature exists that could have arguably prevented or mitigated the accident,” Freeman wrote.

However, Freeman concludes that the inclusion of every possible safety feature on every product would render many utility-enhancing products cost-prohibitive for the average consumer. Moreover, many products have multiple uses, meaning consumers who purchase a product for a particular use may have no need for an optional safety feature that is only applicable in the context of a different application.

Perhaps more importantly, Freeman cites the need for manufacturers to test optional safety features in the field before making them standard to ensure they are effective and do not cause unanticipated problems.

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