On January 30, the NAM and other business groups filed an amicus brief urging the Rhode Island Supreme Court to reverse the verdict because the trial court improperly rewrote the law of public nuisance. Our brief argues that public nuisance law should never be used to replace product liability law. Traditional standards of public nuisance law require that there be an injury to a common public right, that there must be some conduct by the defendants that created a public nuisance, and not merely injury, and that the defendants must have some control over the nuisance, both for imposing liability and for providing a remedy of abatement. The lower court also ignored the need to show proximate cause between a particular manufacturer’s actions and an injury.
Allowing this suit would create unpredictable liability for manufacturers in situtations where they have no control over the ultimate use and/or maintenance of their products,a nd constitutes regulation by litigation. The NAM has been very active in opposing the attempted expansion of the public nuisance theory of liability by plaintiffs’ lawyers who are attempting to avoid the straightforward requirements of product liability law. Similar cases have been brought against manufacturers of firearms, cigarettes, automobiles, gasoline additives, chemicals and electricity. Many of these have been rejected.
The other amici were the Coalition for Litigation Justice, Inc., the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation, the American Chemistry Council, the American Insurance Association, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, and American Tort Reform Association.
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