If 3D printers really do become the revolutionary manufacturing force that some predict, they may bring up many new questions in the realm of product liability law.

Traditionally, if you purchase a product from a manufacturer and are injured by the product you have the right to sue the manufacturer for damages. But Stanford law professor Nora Freeman Engstrom isn’t sure that’s the case when it comes to 3D printing.

Under current law, product liability applies to commercial sellers. If you were to buy an item that was 3D printed by a neighbor, however, they wouldn’t necessarily be liable for damages. According to Engstrom, “[A] person injured by a home-printed product would likely only be left with a negligence-based lawsuit. Negligence focuses on proving that the manufacturer, distributor or seller of the product was careless – a higher hurdle [to prove in court].”

3D Printing isn’t the only technology that’s throwing a wrench into the legal system’s definitions of what is and is not permissible. “Following any significant technological breakthrough legal scholars, practitioners and policymakers must consider how the innovation meshes with – or poses challenges to – our existing laws and system of governance. Will it fit? What must change? Where are the pitfalls and opportunities? 3-D printing is no exception," says Engstrom.

Without being alarmist, professor Engstrom has pointed out another way that 3D printing is redefining manufacturing and impacting society. While nothing is set about how 3D printing will affect product liability – it wouldn’t hurt the technology’s development to have strong, well-reasoned legal precedent backing it up.

Images and Video to Stanford University

 

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