Cliff Rieders, the host and creator of “The Law Show,” aired twice monthly on WXPI public access radio, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, interviewed Professor Mark Hager. Professor Hager is currently residing in Sri Lanka.
Hager, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has taught law for over 20 years prior to relocating.
One of Professor Hager’s interests has been the evolving law of products liability. Products liability is the law which concerns the safety of products. In products liability law, the emphasis is on the safety of the product rather than the negligence of the manufacturer or retailer.
Products liability has evolved ever since the dam burse cases from England. In the famous case of McPherson v. Buick, the courts first addressed how to deal with an unsafe automobile.
Professor Hager talked about the difficult problem of preemption, whereby Congress will come along and usurp state laws. When federal law applies and when state law applies can be a very confusing matter.
The American Law Institute, explained Professor Hager, developed an approach to product safety called 402A. This law emphasized the safety of the product and the spreading of risks throughout society when a product is badly designed or malfunctions. The insurance movement of the mid-1980s attempted to change the law and create a situation whereby consumers would have to prove the unprovable, that the state of mind of the manufacturer was bad or unreasonable. Many products are made overseas and it is difficult enough to bring a case against a manufacturer, no less understand and be able to prove their “negligence.”
The Restatement (Third) attempted to change the rights of consumers and shift the paradigm so that it would favor manufacturers and retailers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in the recent case of Tincher v. Omega Flex, rejected the approach of those who would whittle away consumer rights. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in its leading opinion, said that the Restatement (Second) would continue to control and that consumer expectations would be very important. A manufacturer is the guarantor of the safety of their product and will remain so.
Attorney Rieders has been involved in the American Law Institute having first been elected, and later a life member. Rieders has argued one of the most important products liability cases to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and has served as amicus curiae, friend of the court, in a host of other cases. In fact, Rieders was amicus curiae in the Tincher case.
Rieders is one of the leading authorities on the law of products liability, unsafe products, whether they be vehicles, airplanes, home appliances, pharmaceutical or medical devices.