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State products liability law shields manufacturers, sellers

Q&A with Jason McVicker

published in The Oklahoman | May 30, 2014

In Oklahoma, both manufacturers and sellers alike have found that their strict compliance with a myriad of federal regulations does not shield them from product liability lawsuits. Beginning November 1, 2014, Oklahoma will join states like Texas and Michigan to reverse this trend. Trial lawyer Jason McVicker was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the new law, its benefits and limitations.

“In cases involving an alleged defect in the formulation, labeling or design of a product, the manufacturer or seller of the product is presumed to be free from liability if they can show compliance with federal safety standards or pre-market licensing requirements,” explained McVicker. “A plaintiff can counter this presumption only by showing that the federal regulations were inadequate, or that the manufacturer engaged in some kind of fraud during the regulatory process. This should discourage certain kinds of lawsuits.” In addition, sellers can be liable only if they played a role in making or modifying the product, or in other situations involving fault or fairness to the plaintiff, he said.

Despite its added protections, the law does have its exceptions. According to McVicker, the statute does not apply to cases involving manufacturing flaws or defects, or in cases where a product is recalled or taken off the market by other federal action.