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Ohio's Alternative to the Contract-Specification Defense: Queen City Terminal and the OPLA "Manufacturer"/"Supplier" Two-Step

Fall 2018 | Volume 12 | Issue No. 4 - OACTA Quarterly Review
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The contract-specifications defense adopted by numerous jurisdictions and recognized in Comment (a) to Section 404 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, exempts contract manufacturers from product liability when their customers provide the product design. It reflects the common-sense principle that a contractor should not be liable for following the material and design instructions of the product designer. See Bloemer v. Art Welding Co., 884 S.W.2d 55, 59 (Mo. App. E.D. 1994) ("[T]o hold [a contractor] liable for defective design would amount to holding a non-designer liable for design defect. Logic forbids any such result."). Think of it like putting together a piece of furniture—Ikea is generally responsible for the product design and warnings, not the person who follows the instructions to build the dresser drawers, unless that person fails to follow the instructions.

Yet, despite adopting other aspects of the Second Restatement, Ohio’s courts have yet to embrace the defense, instead opting for a narrower approach that exempts the makers of certain custom-made products from strict liability. See Queen City Terminals v. Gen. Am. Transp. Corp., 653 N.E.2d 661 (Ohio 1995). One possible explanation: the Ohio Product Liability Act’s (OPLA) competing liability regimes for "manufacturer[s]" and "supplier[s]." See O.R.C. §§ 2307.71(A)(9) & (15)(a), 2307.73 (manufacturer liability), 2307.78 (supplier liability).

Though full adoption of the contract-specifications defense likely will require legislative action, key OPLA provisions and some Ohio authority leave room to achieve some of the same results under the OPLA.

Read the article here.

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