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Kansas Product Liability Law

Overview of the Kansas Product Liability Act –
The statutes relevant to all Kansas Product Liability cases & claims:

Kansas law surrounding products liability claims is a hybrid of sorts, blending Kansas common law with the Kansas Product Liability Act (“KPLA”).  The Kansas Legislature passed the KPLA in 1981, at least loosely basing it on the Model Uniform Product Liability Act (MUPLA) published by the Department of Commerce in 1979. See 44 Fed. Reg. 62,414-62, 750 (October 31, 1979). The original proposed Senate Bill 165 was almost identical to MUPLA. But the final version of the KPLA is considerably less detailed than MUPLA in scope, definitions, and subsequent sections outlining the liability of manufacturers and product sellers.
MUPLA and the KPLA both state that a "product liability claim" is
"any claim or action brought for harm caused by the manufacture, production, making, construction, fabrication, design, formula, preparation, assembly, installation, testing, warnings, instructions, marketing, packaging, storage, or labeling of the relevant product. It includes, but is not limited to, any action previously based on: strict liability in tort; negligence; breach of express or implied warranty; breach of, or failure to, discharge a duty to warn or instruct, whether negligent or innocent; misrepresentation, concealment, or nondisclosure, whether negligent or innocent; or under any other substantive legal theory." 44 Fed. Reg. 62,717; K.S.A. 60-3302(c).
In Patton v. Hutchinson Wil-Rich Mfg. Co., 253 Kan. 741, 752, 861 P.2d 1299 (1993), the Kansas Supreme Court stated that the purpose of the KPLA was "to limit the rights of plaintiffs to recover in product liability suits generally." And, in Delaney v. Deere & Co., the court noted the purpose of the KPLA as stated in Patton, then said:
"In order to achieve that purpose, the KPLA contains provisions which limit in different ways the ability of a plaintiff to recover. K.S.A. 60-3303 provides that a product seller 'shall not be subject to liability' for harm caused after the 'useful safe life' of the product has expired. K.S.A. 60-3304 provides that a product is 'not defective' under certain circumstances where it was in compliance with regulatory standards when manufactured. K.S.A. 60-3306 provides that a seller 'shall not be subject to liability' under circumstances set forth." 268 Kan. at 778.
Delaney proceeded to rely on Kansas common law to decide a product liability question placed before this court by certification from the Tenth Circuit. This pattern of analysis demonstrated that, despite the KPLA's enactment, the Kansas common law of product liability continued to answer all questions on which the statute was less than enlightening.
Kansas federal district court Judge John W. Lungstrum has made harmonious observations regarding the interaction between the KPLA and the common law:

"[T]here is reason to believe that the KPLA is merely a statutory mechanism that limits a manufacturer or seller's liability, and not a statute providing plaintiffs with an independent right of action. . . . [T]he purpose of the Act is to limit a plaintiff's ability to recover in a product liability suit. Moreover, the statute does not expressly provide plaintiffs with a right of action. Instead, the Act appears to presuppose the existence of a duty and then limit that duty by the terms of the statute. For example, K.S.A. § 60-3305 provides that '[i]n any product liability claim any duty on the part of the . . . seller of the product to warn or protect against a danger or hazard which could or did arise in the use or misuse of such product, and any duty to have properly instructed in the use of such product shall not extend . . .' to various situations set forth in this section. This section does not define the duty to warn, but merely limits liability in certain circumstances. To this extent the KPLA does not pattern the Model Uniform Product Liability Act in that the latter expressly defines a manufacturer and seller's basic standards of responsibility. See 44 Fed. Reg. 62,714, 62,721-62,728 (1979)." Cooper v. Zimmer Holdings, Inc., 320 F. Supp. 2d 1154, 1158 n.7 (D. Kan. 2004).
The KPLA does not directly address public policy considerations. But Kansas has recognized several policy rationales for its broadly applicable product liability common law, including: (1) "a desire to achieve maximum protection for the injured party"; (2) promotion of "the public interest in discouraging the marketing of products that have defects that are a menace to the public," Kennedy, 228 Kan. at 444-46; and (3) a desire to protect consumer expectations. Lester, 230 Kan. 643. These policy considerations favor extension of strict product liability to sellers of used goods.

 

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