Explore this LibGuide to learn more about product liability issues from a plaintiff's perspective in Missouri and how to research this area of law effectively. Enjoy!
This guide has been created by Bailey Schamel in support of Professor Diamond's Advanced Legal Research class for Fall 2017. The contents of this guide should not be taken as legal advice or as the work product of Mizzou Law librarians.
Please note that while most recommended sources in this guide are paid-for services, Product Liability law is very much common law and case law heavy, so these paid-for services are crucial to understanding the basics of Product Liability law. While it is unfortunate, the investment is well worth the money. Additionally, the blogs and websites offered are free to access and provide great starting information.
Product liability issues are common in today's society. Several people are hurt every year from using products manufactured by both large and small companies. The injuries and harms people suffer because of products can range from relatively minor injuries, like broken bones, to relatively major injuries, like certain types of cancer and even a loss of life. No matter the harm, the company who manufactured the product that caused it should be held liable for its mistakes. It is important to know the complexities of product liability law in order to best advocate for plaintiffs in court to get them the redress they deserve. This research guide will help those relatively unexperienced in the area of product liability law (law students completing research questions, brand new associates at plaintiff's personal injury firm, and the like) understand the complexities by providing helpful laws, secondary sources, and current awareness tools to guide research.
There are many facets to product liability law in Missouri that are important to be aware of. This guide will cover three major areas: expert testimony, jury instructions, and comparative fault. Expert testimony and the admissibility standard is an important consideration because expert witnesses can make or break a case. Because expert testimony is so vital to the success of a plaintiff's claim, Missouri attorneys should know the admissibility standard so they know what to look for in an expert witness. An incorrect jury instruction could lead to the reversal of a verdict and a retrial, and plaintiff's attorneys do not want to waste their clients time. Finally, when a potential client engages in conduct that could arguably make them partially at fault, it is important to know when and how evidence of their conduct can be introduced at trial and for what purpose. Tabs 3-5 will cover helpful resources for each important area of law. Please note that these three areas of product liability law are not the only important areas to consider, but rather are extremely pertinent. There are more areas than just these three to consider as a plaintiff's product liability attorney in Missouri, but this guide will only cover these three.
This guide will include primary sources, secondary sources, current awareness tools, and sample research questions and strategies for how to answer them. Tab 2 covers helpful secondary sources to consult in general, Tab 6 covers which online service is best for researching product liability law, and Tab 7 covers some helpful current awareness tools to aid those who practice product liability law in staying aware of recent developments, which is very important in practicing law.
Begin with Secondary Sources
If an attorney comes to you with a question regarding an aspect of product liability law, the best place to start is with secondary sources. These sources compile relevant primary law so researchers don't have to spend an inordinate amount of time finding the primary law themselves. Of course, secondary sources do not cover everything, and often there are other sources necessary to consult, but secondary sources are a great place to start.
For those extremely new to product liability law, one great secondary source that is featured and explained in great detail in Tab 2 (Secondary Sources) is American Law of Products Liability 3d. This treatise, among several other helpful secondary sources like other treatises, articles, and legal blogs are explained in detail in Tab 2. These secondary sources are a wealth of extremely important information that can be helpful for those new to product liability law, including the necessary elements of a product liability claim. For secondary sources specific to each pertinent area of product liability law, please explore each tab dedicated to each area.
Finish with Primary Sources
Product liability law in Missouri is largely based on common law through case decisions. There are, however, some relevant statutes. They can be accessed for free online through the state's website, and the tabs regarding each specific area of law will provide links to the relevant statutes. However, click here to explore Missouri's statutes available for free. Annotated versions of these statutes are available on Westlaw and LexisNexis (which may be a little easier to search).
Cases may be accessed through any legal database (Westlaw, LexisNexis, or free sites like Fastcase). There is the ability on Westlaw to search cases specifically relating to products liability, which makes the search results a bit easier to sift through. This guide includes a link to search this database under Tab 6 (Online Services).
Staying Current on Changes in Product Liability Law
The law of product liability is ever-changing. While secondary sources and primary sources are great, they sometimes are not updated very often (i.e. secondary sources) or it is difficult to determine whether there is a recent change because the new changes are not brought to the researcher's attention (i.e. primary sources). This guide includes links to current resources, both free and subscription in Tab 7 (Current Awareness Tools).
Product liability is a very important area of law. On one hand, courts want to allow plaintiffs to collect damages for the harms they suffer at the fault of the defendants. On the other hand, the courts also want to prevent claims without any merit and plaintiffs trying to take advantage of the law. The law that governs expert witnesses, jury instructions, and comparative fault are generally well-settled (with maybe the exception of expert witness admissibility - there are some recent developments in that area). It is important to know the implications each area could have on a plaintiff's product liability claim. The best source for Missouri law, if one can afford a Westlaw subscription, is the Missouri Practice Series - a source that will be explained in great detail in the Secondary Sources tab.