Could You Be Sued for your Defective Designs? Product Liability and 3D Printing.


Nora Freeman Engstrom wrote a spectacular article in SSRN called, “3-D Printing and Product Liability: Identifying the Obstacles.”  The article describes how current product liability law could apply/change with widespread adoption of 3D printing.  The article talks about 3 classes people who could potentially face liability issues in a 3D printing age:

(1) the hobbyist inventor who created and sold the  defective 3-D-printed product,

(2) the manufacturer of the 3-D printer that  “printed” the defective item, and/or

(3) the “digital designer” who wrote the code that instructed the printer what to print.

In the article she points out the difficulty an injured plaintiff could have recovering from any of these groups.  Most of these hover around the idea that current law is in place to protect consumers from defective “commercial” products, but it may be difficult to consider a file you downloaded online or an object made in a home office a “commercial” product.

It will be interesting to watch how this develops.  There may be some pressure to change current laws like we’ve seen with the whole plastic gun debate or some laws may fade away in importance as the article suggests.  As we talked of in our first post, it’s the Wild West in 3D printing right now.  It’s up to all of us to be active as legislation to be sure laws that make sense are implemented and growth isn’t impeded.

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