Authors, Publishers, and Products Liability: Remedies for Defective Information in Books
Oregon Law Review, Vol. 77, No. 4, 1999
Posted: 3 Mar 1999
Authors and publishers of "How To" manuals, cookbooks, textbooks, and field guides sometimes include hazardous misinformation that readers foreseeably may rely upon to their detriment. With the growth in consumer demand for these nonfiction titles, coupled with increased short-cuts taken by publishers, we can expect more tort litigation involving such books in the future. In the limited number of cases decided to date, however, courts have treated books as special, unlike other mass-produced commercial goods, often citing policies derived from constitutional protections against governmental interference with free speech. This Article suggests that these decisions incorrectly distinguish books from other consumer goods routinely made subject to strict products liability and also overstate the First Amendment rationales for immunizing authors and publishers from the threat of tort claims. Existing products liability doctrines can fully accommodate any special problems that would arise from treating authors and publishers in the same way as manufacturers and distributors of other types of consumer goods.
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