accidental injury or death have increasingly become contentious issues and are frequently resolved only through the litigation process. This is costly. Over the past 40 to 50 years, U.S. tort costs have risen significantly, reaching an estimated $132 billion in 1991 (Tillinghast, 1992). Such high costs are borne by everyone in one form or another, and often have consequences that are not planned or obvious. This is becoming an issue of growing national concern.
As providers of the goods and services we use in our daily lives, companies are viewed as both the cause of the problem and the answer to the question, "Who will pay for the physical and societal costs when an accident occurs?"
Product liability requires that companies critically examine the possible risks associated with their products or services. It also forces us, as a society, to look at the very personal nature of pain and suffering. Most of the time, companies go about their business of providing goods and services that the public wants. Usually when people get injured there is no connection between the two. This volume is about those times when there is an actual or alleged connection, the system of laws for dealing with it, and most important, the ramifications of that system.
Product liability and innovation. By themselves, these terms signal different disciplines. But in the following context they are frequently linked: Does product liability plus innovation equal a problem?
Product liability law has its roots in providing a means for those injured by defective products to seek redress. It aims not only to compensate victims but also to act as an incentive to providers of goods to make their products safe. The body of tort law that guides us today is of fairly recent development, having matured within the past 40 years. It is fair to say that the legal theorists who had much to do with the formation of modern tort law were well-intentioned and felt that society's best interests would be properly served by this framework for resolving disputes involving personal injury and accidents.
Innovation is the introduction of new methods or devices. By implication, one views these changes as improvements. Innovation can include a spectrum of change—from breakthrough discoveries in product and process to incremental improvements in design, materials, production methods, and quality control. Technological innovation has been an important contributor to the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector, to safer and more effective products, to job creation, and to the growth of this country's standard of living.
By definition, innovation involves risk. Change always does. No matter