The Effect of 3-D Printing on Products Liability Law

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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With technology advancing at an ever-increasing rate, the law must be continuously reexamined in order to keep pace with society’s needs. Products liability law is currently experiencing this phenomenon, as 3-D printing becomes a reality in many industries. 3-D printing poses a significant disruption to the usual flow of the supply chain on which traditional products liability law is based; now anyone can simply design and manufacture a product from the comfort of their own home. The black and white distinctions between designer, manufacturer, distributor and purchaser are no longer present.
Attorneys across the county have been looking into what sort of impact a rise in the popularity of 3-D printing could have on the legal world. One attorney discussed the potential issues that may arise as hospitals begin to print their own medical tools, body parts or even medication. Should a suit be filed against a hospital for a complication during a surgery performed with items created by in-house 3-D printing, the question becomes whether this is a products liability issue or a medical malpractice issue. Attorneys are also anticipating that 3-D printing might cause issues in the automotive industry. Spare parts can now be printed directly in the shop, cutting out several rungs on the supply chain ladder and potentially causing shop employees to be considered
manufacturers who could be subject to strict liability claims. 

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