Hofstra Law Review


It is a rare event for a leading Court of Appeals to hand down three major opinions in a quickly developing field of law within a one-year time span. One would have expected that, having been granted the opportunity to speak thrice on the subject of products liability a full decade after the formal adoption of strict liability by leading courts throughout the country, the New York Court of Appeals would have seized the moment to crystallize the law and rid itself of shopworn concepts. Such expectations were only partially realized. The court did in fact break new ground in apparently establishing strict tort liability as an independent cause of action, expanding tort liability to second collision damages, and limiting the scope of disclaimers against nonbargaining third parties. However, despite three separate opportunities the court neglected to clarify the nature and scope of its commitment to the strict tort liability concept. By failing to confront the policy considerations underlying contributory fault, disclaimers, and antiquated duty rules, the New York court has placed itself in the position of being at the same time among the most progressive and retrogressive courts in the nation in the product liability field. Such an uneven performance deserves serious academic analysis.

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