Category Archives: CPSC

The Single Test for Product Liability in Oregon

Olson Brooksby Has Extensive Experience With Product Liability Work in Oregon

Olson Brooksby defends product liability (including consumer products regulated by the CPSC such as lead toys and non-consumer products such as aircraft) and personal injury cases, with an emphasis on the defense of high exposure cases.

Both Kristin Olson and Scott Brooksby have tried product liability cases to verdict.  Their product liability practice includes, but is not limited to: aviation (aircraft and components), heavy equipment (including tractors, forklifts, loaders, logging equipment, and scissor-lifts), and industrial equipment used in the fabrication of raw steel and metals (including rollers, punch-presses, laser torches and other sample burners and test equipment).

Kristin Olson and Scott Brooksby also have experience with the following kinds of cases:

– Aviation, aircraft and their component parts.

– Paints, solvents, coatings, detergents, and pesticides, including benzene and toluene cases which resulted in liver and kidney transplants.

– Toys and recreational products, including paint ball guns, toys containing battery fire hazards, pogo sticks, pools, lead toys imported from India that were swallowed by children, toys allegedly containing lead paint, and inflatable and other recreational towables pulled behind boats.

– Tempered glass and conventional glass.

– Foreign objects or other alleged dangerous defects in food and drink products and packaging.

– Drug and medical device cases, including fraudulent vitamins and device replacements for hips, knees, ray cages and pedicle screws.

– Home appliance cases involving allegedly defective washers, dryers, stoves, heaters and heating equipment, green technology, and water heaters.

– Chemicals that resulted in a fatal automobile fire, burning a family of five, including fatal burns to two children.

The Consumer Expectation Test

Three types of product defects are recognized in Oregon: design defects, manufacturing defects, or failure to warn.  In any of these cases, to prevail on a product liability claim, the plaintiff must prove that the product was unreasonably dangerous.  In design defect cases, risk-utility proof is not required to make a prima facie case.

Although Kristin Olson and Scott Brooksby have defended cases involving countless different types of consumer and other products, the test for liability in each case in Oregon is “the consumer expectation test” and this test is always the same.  It applies regardless of whether the case is a negligence case or a strict liability action.

Under the consumer expectation test, the question is whether the product was “dangerous to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary consumer who purchases it, with the ordinary knowledge common to the community as to its characteristics.”  McCathern v. Toyota Motor Corp., 332 Or 59, 77 (2001) (quoting RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS §402A comment I (1979)).  The plaintiff has the burden of proving that a product is unreasonably dangerous.

The consumer expectation test is objective.  Jurors may not consider their own personal subjective views as to whether the product contained conditions that they themselves would expect.  Similarly, they may not put themselves in the position of the injured plaintiff to make such a determination, but must apply the views of the community as a whole.  The McCathern decision also made clear that the consumer expectation test is the only test properly given to the jury in a strict product liability case.  For a good overview of Oregon product liability law, the McCathern decision is worth reading.

Who are Proper Defendants?

Strict tort liability applies to any person engaged in the business of selling or leasing products for use or consumption.  This includes manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, lessors, or in short, any person in the “stream of commerce”.  For a party to be held strictly liable in tort, that party must have sold or leased a product under the statute.  The Oregon product liability statute, codified at ORS 30.900 et. seq. provides that, “a manufacturer, distributor, seller or lesser of a product” may be subject to an action for a product that is unreasonably dangerous.  The Oregon Legislature did not adopt the caveat to RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS §402A caveat 3 (1965), which contains the caveat for component-part manufacturers.  The Oregon
Supreme Court has ruled that component part manufacturers can be subject to strict liability for the sale of defective components.  However, the manufacturer of a component part is not the subject of strict liability if the component was misapplied rather than defectively designed.

Important Considerations When Defending Products Cases in Oregon

One of the most important considerations at trial is jury selection.  What are the perspective jurors’ views of governmental regulation of the product involved and products generally?  Does the jury have preconceived attitudes and experiences that will make them favorable opinion leaders during jury deliberations, or do they have negative attitudes and opinions toward manufacturers or corporations that make them predisposed to award plaintiffs large verdicts no matter what the evidence?

Does one of the many defenses, including statute of limitations, statute of ultimate repose, alteration or unforeseeable misuse or modification apply?  Was the danger of the product so open and obvious, and an alternative unavailable such that the utility and necessity of the product outweighed any danger?  These and many other defense questions will require further analysis well before trial begins, and often before discovery begins.  Disciplined defense strategy formation and execution, exhaustive development of potential defenses, and jury research are all be valuable in attempting to obtain defense or low verdicts.




Federal Government Regulation of Consumer Product Safety and Mandatory Reporting of Consumer Product Defects to the CPSC

Olson Brooksby frequently counsels local and national clients on whether or not the consumer products they manufacture or sell contain a safety defect that they would be required to report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Federal Regulation

The Congress of the United States established the Consumer Product Safety Act (“CPSA”), codified at 15 U.S.C. §§2007-2089.

Complete analysis of the CPSA is beyond the scope of this article.  Pursuant to the CPSA, Congress established the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“Commission”) to regulate consumer product safety in the United States.  Under the CPSA, the Commission has the power to develop regulations related to the safety of consumer products, which are generally contained in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Under 15 USCS § 2052(5), a “consumer product” means “any article, or component part thereof, produced or distributed (i) for sale to a consumer for use in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise, or (ii) for the personal use, consumption or enjoyment of a consumer in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise…”

Specifically excluded from regulation by the CPSC are tobacco, motor vehicles, pesticides, aircraft and aircraft components, boats, drugs and medical devices and food.  Even if these excluded products are purchased for consumer use, they are not subject to regulation or jurisdiction by the CPSC.   The Commission does tend to heavily regulate consumer products, especially children’s items, such as: car seats, children’s pajamas, strollers, cribs, toys, some recreational products, certain home appliances, and tools.  The CPSC has passed specific regulatory acts such as the “Children’s Flammable Pajamas Act” associated with consumer products that target vulnerable users, primarily children and vulnerable adults.   A link to the CPSC website, which contains useful product safety information, including information for manufacturers such as current product recalls, is found at

The Requirement of Reporting Consumer Product Defects to the CPSC

Although complete analysis of reporting requirements are beyond the scope of this article, Section 15(b) of the CPSA establishes reporting requirements (“Section 15(b) reports”) for manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of consumer products.  In summary, each must notify the commission (generally within 24 hours) if they obtain information that “reasonably supports the conclusion” that a product (1) fails to comply with an applicable consumer product safety rule or with a voluntary consumer product safety standard, (2) fails to comply with any other rule, regulation, standard or ban under the CPSA or any other Act enforced by the Commission such as the Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act, Refrigerator Safety Act or Flammable Fabrics Act, (3) contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, or (4) creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.

Under the CPSA, a private right of action exists for any person injured by violation of a consumer product safety rule promulgated by the Commission.  Manufacturers should be aware that the CPSA contains some sharp teeth and courts may award attorney fees as part of the injured person’s recovery.  15 U.S.C. §2072.  Under the CPSA, the CPSC has broad enforcement powers and a number of tools to ensure the safety of consumer products.  However, under the CPSA, the CPSC is also charged with assisting manufacturers, distributors and retailers of products with known defects in the development of a “Corrective Action Plan” (“CAP”), and although the CPSC enforcement powers have sharp teeth, the CPSC is also focused on working to develop voluntary corrective action plans and engaging in cooperation during corrective action plan implementation.

Olson Brooksby frequently counsels manufacturers on whether to pass along reports they have received or internally-developed information that suggests that a product may contain a defect that would require reporting under Section 15(b) of the CPSA.  While comprehensive analysis of the Section 15(b) reporting requirements are beyond the scope of this article, the Commission has published a useful abbreviated publication that discusses reporting and product recalls.

Why Familiarity And Compliance With CPSC Mandatory Reporting Requirements Matters

Although it should go without saying, manufacturers, especially those focused on products for babies, children and household consumers (such as cleaning products, flammable products, etc.), must be aware of whether the Commission is considering or has established specific rules governing their products.  Manufacturers, distributors and retailers should be aware of the basic reporting requirements to the CPSC under Section 15(b) if they become aware of information that reasonably supports the conclusion that their product contains a defect and should voluntarily report.

The Commission has the power to require mandatory recalls, but will typically offer a manufacturer the option of conducting a voluntary recall before issuing a recall order.  Prudent manufacturers of consumer products, especially those for which the Commission has promulgated specific rules or standards, should have a recall plan developed in advance because, whether voluntary or mandatory, the Commission will expect the company to commence the necessary recall action plan quickly and such plans are typically very involved.  Any action taken by the Commission, whether in the form of corrective action or a recall can have serious consequences for manufacturing cycles and the costs associated with a recall can be very high.  For more on this issue, please feel free to contact our office.