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Bringing Liability Claims Against Designers Into Line

On March 17, 2014, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 680, an act to amend the Mississippi Products Liability Act (the “MPLA”).  This bill was a response to a 2011 Mississippi Supreme Court case, Lawson v. Honeywell International, Inc., 75 So. 3d 1024 (Miss. 2011), that held that a “mere designer” was not covered by the MPLA.  Based on this “hole” in the MPLA, Plaintiffs could pursue products claims against designers under common law theories of negligence (and “any other available theory of liability”) without any of the protections afforded to manufactures and sellers under the MPLA.  The intent of this legislation was to bring claims against designers under the umbrella of the MPLA and remove them from such common law theories of liability.

A substantially similar bill passed during the 2013 session of the Mississippi Legislature.  However, the Governor vetoed that bill because it subjected designers to claims under the MPLA without affording them all of the MPLA’s accompanying defenses and protections.  The Governor’s veto message of the 2013 bill can be accessed at here.  Thus, it was not the Mississippi Legislature’s intent to expand liability claims against designers, but rather, as stated by the Governor, to bring those claims and the accompanying defenses into line with claims against manufacturers and sellers.

P. Ryan Beckett