“Each manufacturer needs to take its own approach to reduce the exposure of product liability based on the unique nature of its product or products,” says Steven Henry, partner at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP.


Steven Henry, partner at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP.

Henry represents businesses and individuals faced with legal, regulatory and business issues. He is experienced in product liability, commercial, employment, environmental and general business litigation matters, white collar criminal defense, client counseling, governmental and internal corporate investigations, and regulatory compliance.

At COMPOSITES 2013, Henry led an educational session on reducing corporate exposure to product liability litigation. He has personally represented composites companies in lawsuits and believes that his insight could help industry leaders effectively reduce their product liability exposure.

What should a company do to reduce product liability exposure?

Generally speaking, the first step in reducing the risk of product liability is to perform a product liability audit. You must know what you have before you can know where to begin or what to do. Thus, you need to identify and analyze issues with your products that have occurred or could reasonably occur. This will help focus your product liability risk management on the real issues. A company will also need to be sure it is producing a product that has no reasonably safer alternative design, meaning that it uses appropriate warnings and instructions to eliminate risks that could not be eliminated through reasonable design. Training personnel on product liability is a good way to have your company’s “antennae up” to product liability issues.

The folks that work in your factory are likely to know a great deal about the products they are making and may spot issues before they cause a problem. Finally, a post-sale feedback system is a means to identify product liability issues and deal with them before a claim is made or a lawsuit is filed.

From a legal standpoint, what do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the composites industry?

To date, I believe my biggest contribution to the composites industry is my firm’s successful representation of companies in the composites industry. Now, my focus is on expanding my representation of companies into an earlier phase of the product life cycle. My goal is to help companies avoid litigation and the expense and dangers that it can bring by educating them through product liability audits. Ultimately, educating enough folks may be lawyers’ biggest contribution to the industry.