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Seller Liability under the Revised Tennessee Products Liability Act


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By: Ryan A. Tombul, Esq. and Charles W. Poss, Esq.

Retailers who are not aware of the 2011 revisions to the Tennessee Products Liability Act will be pleased to know that they now enjoy rather substantial protections against a products liability lawsuit. Previously, the law made it very difficult for a seller to avoid liability for a defective product. A seller was required to show that the product was in a sealed container at all times, or that the seller did not have an opportunity to inspect the product for a defect.

However, the current version of the law establishes an initial premise that sellers, other than the manufacturer, may not be liable in a product liability action regardless of the presence of a sealed container or the opportunity to inspect.

Now, a seller who is not a manufacturer may only be sued for a defective product under the Products Liability Act if one of the following exceptions exists:

(1) The seller exercised substantial control over that aspect of the design, testing, manufacture, packaging or labeling of the product that caused the alleged harm for which recovery of damages is sought;
(2) The seller Altered or modified the product, and the alteration or modification was a substantial factor in causing the harm for which recovery of damages is sought;
(3) The seller gave an express warranty;
(4) The manufacturer or distributor of the product or part in question is not subject to service of process in this state and the long-arm statutes of Tennessee do not serve as the basis for obtaining service of process; or
(5) The manufacturer has been judicially declared insolvent.

Tenn. Code Ann. ยง 29-28-106

Thus, if you are a retail seller, and none of the above exceptions apply to you, the plain language of the Act may prohibit a product liability claim against you. If you want more information on how to protect your business from product liability lawsuits, or are concerned about a potential product liability action, contact our office today.