Design Defects


To prove a design defect products liability claim the injured party must prove that a manufacturer’s product was not reasonable safe as designed and caused injury.[1] The injured part may prove a design defect by either of two tests, the risk-utility test or the consumer expectations test.[2]

Risk-Utility Test.

An injured party can prove a products liability design defect under the risk-utility test by showing that “at time of manufacture, the likelihood that the product would cause the plaintiff’s harm or similar harms, and the seriousness of those harms, outweighed the manufacturer’s burden to design a product that would have prevented those harms and any adverse effect a practical, feasible alternative would have on the product’s usefulness.”[3]

Under this test the plaintiff must show that a feasible alternative design would have prevented injury.[4]

Consumer Expectations Test.

The consumer-expectation test requires a showing that the product is more dangerous than the ordinary consumer would expect.[5] This test focuses on the reasonable expectation of the consumer.[6] Courts consider a number of factors including the intrinsic nature of the product, its relative cost, the severity of the potential harm from the claimed defect, and the cost and feasibility of minimizing the risk.[7]


[1] Thongchoom v. Graco Children’s Products, Inc., 117 Wn. App. 299, 71 P.3d 214 (2003).

[2] Higgins v. Intex Recreation Corp., 123 Wn. App. 821, 99 P.3d (2004).

[3] Lecy v. Bayliner Marine Corp., 94 Wn. App. 949, 959-60, 973 P.2d 1110 (1999) (quoting Soproni v. Polygon Apartment Partners, 137 Wn.2d 319, 326, 971 P.2d 500 (1999)), review denied, 139 Wn.2d 1025 (2000).

[4] Thongchoom v. Graco Children’s Products, Inc., 117 Wn. App. 299, 71 P.3d 214 (2003).

[5] RCW 7.72.030 (3); see Pagnotta v. Beall Trailers of Or., Inc ., 99 Wn. App. 28 , 36, 991 P.2d 728 (2000).

[6] Soproni v. Polygon Apartment Partners , 137 Wn.2d 319 , 326-27, 971 P.2d 500 (1999).

[7] Seattle-First Nat’l Bank v. Tabert , 86 Wn.2d 145 , 154, 542 P.2d 774 (1975).