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Assumption of the risk explained

If you go skydiving, you know there is a chance, however remote, that your parachute will not open. This is an extreme example of assuming the risk, a legal principle that is a viable defense in many products liability cases.

Assumption of the risk means that the plaintiff was knowingly engaged in an inherently dangerous activity. Thus, the plaintiff voluntarily “assumed the risk” that the injuries that he or she sustained were likely to result. In the products liability context, this could mean that the plaintiff was aware of a defect in the product, and voluntarily and unreasonably decided to use the product anyway.

The defendant must show that the plaintiff had knowledge of the specific danger or defect that injured him or her. Proof of knowledge of some generalized danger the product can cause is not sufficient. Just how specific the plaintiff’s knowledge must be has been interpreted differently by various courts, and proving what the plaintiff did and did not know prior to getting injured can be difficult.

However, a successful assumption of risk defense can protect a manufacturer from liability, or reduce the business’ share of the blame, and consequently the damages the jury orders it to pay the plaintiff.

Defending your business from accusations of making or selling a defective product can mean facing a potentially huge verdict for numerous plaintiffs. Choosing the right attorney to assist you is vital. Products liability is a complex and technical field of law, and a mistake can be very costly.

Source: 119 Am. Jur. Proof of Facts 3d 203 (Originally published in 2011)

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