In these cases injury results from a poor design, even though there may be no defect in the manufacture of the individual product. A product can be unreasonably dangerous for various reasons. The design of the product could be unreasonably dangerous resulting in the entire line of products being defective. Generally, in order to prove a design defect case, the plaintiff is obligated to offer a reasonable alternative design that the manufacturer could have employed, which would have prevented the injury and which would not have substantially diminished the product’s effectiveness. If the jury finds that the plaintiff’s proposed alternative is reasonable and would have eliminated the product’s risk, the product is determined defective.
The manufacturer in a design defect case cannot escape liability by relying on industry standard as a defense or alleging that because the other manufacturers used the same design, the product was not defective. Theoretically, the entire industry could be producing products with design defects. However, the industry standard defense is not the same as the state of the art defense, which may be a valid defense if the defendant can show that at the time the product was built, no safer, alternative design existed. The state of the art defense protects a manufacturer from liability for a product, which was reasonably safe years earlier but by current standards might be deemed defective.