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3D printing leads to complications with product liability

Sometimes, when new technology emerges, the law can't keep up with it. That's the case with the new 3D printing technique. This technology allows people to print a variety of items at home. Some people have created guns, prostheses and even jet engine parts.

What's difficult about this technology is that product liability law doesn't apply in the same way. With strict liability, you could hold the manufacturer liable for any product that has a defect. What about a product that's created to cause harm from one of their 3D printers? It could be hard to hold the manufacturer of the 3D printer liable, since there is no longer just a single manufacturer or designer involved in the creation of a product.

Maybe surprisingly, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first ever 3D printed prescription drug in August 2015. Others have printed 3D fuel nozzles to use in jet engines. More and more of these unique products are invented each day, and the courts are going to have to weigh in. Who is responsible if someone gets hurt? Should the manufacturer be liable since they know that their products could be used to create something dangerous? Or, should the person that created the dangerous item be held liable?

3D printer manufacturers can't possibly see all the potential injuries that could happen due to the different types of products created with their printers. That fact is why it's unlikely that the printer manufacturer would be able to be held liable. This is still a gray area in the law, so the manufacturer could potentially be held liable if you're injured by something that has been printed on a 3D printer. A product liability lawyer would have more information on this kind of case since, since the law is evolving.

Source: Bloomberg, "3-D Printing Leaps Ahead of Product Liability Law," Alexis Kramer, Sep. 27, 2016

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