Oklahoma Law Review
The impact of Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts had far-reaching effects. The most noticeable of these effects was that strict liability was accepted as a cause of action in almost all cases involving defective products. As a result, there was an explosion of products liability litigation, and suits involving strict liability for defective products soon outnumbered all other tort cases.
Naturally, the vast number of lawsuits caused some confusion. Courts interpreted some terms of Section 402A to include individuals and events not originally mentioned, while other terms, which at first were thought to be clear and concise, proved quite illusive. One such term is “product.” If one is held strictly liable for placing a defective “product” into the stream of commerce, or if one may escape strict liability by showing that no “product” was introduced into the marketplace, it is imperative to define the meaning of this term.
In deciding products liability cases, courts have generally avoided the dictionary’s definition and have instead utilized a strict liability policy approach in the interpretation of the term, which has led to some unusual results. Today, transactions involving traditional services, houses, land, blood, electricity, component parts, water, computer software, and ideas have all been held in one form or another to constitute a product. Ultimately, without a clear and narrow definition of the term, only the ingenuity of plaintiffs and the willingness of courts to extend the protection of 402A will determine exactly how far the definition of the term “product” can be stretched.
Charles E. Cantú, The Illusive Meaning of the Term “Product” Under Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, 44 Okla. L. Rev. 635 (1991).