Albany Law Review
The government contract defense, known as the Boyle defense, shields those successfully invoking it from liability for injuries caused by defective products they manufactured. The contract specification defense is afforded to both private and government contractors when they follow the directions and specifications of a third party, usually the employer.
The first element of the Boyle defense requires that the government approve reasonably precise specifications for the equipment’s design. The contractor must show that a team-like effort existed in all communications between the contractor and the government, with the government providing general specifications and approval at various stages of project development. Boyle’s second element requires that the equipment conform to specifications provided by the government. This requirement motivates the contractor to ensure that any design-feature deviations are brought to the government’s attention. The third and final prong of the Boyle defense requires that the supplier warn the government about dangers involving the equipment known to the supplier but not known to the government. The best method to attack Boyle’s third element is for the plaintiff to establish intentional non-disclosure or negligence by the defense contractor.
Although the Boyle defense places difficult hurdles before a plaintiff, overcoming these hurdles is not an impossible burden.
Charles E. Cantú, The Government Contractor Defense: Breaking the Boyle Barrier, 62 Alb. L. Rev. 403 (1998).