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Damned for Their Judgment: The Tort Liability of Standard Development Organizations

61 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2010 Last revised: 10 Jul 2013

Robert H. Heidt

Indiana University Maurer School of Law


This article examines the tort liability of standard development organizations when sued by persons injured while using a product, service or activity that complies with the organization’s standards. These suits typically allege that the standard development organization developed its standards negligently in that the standards failed to require certain precautions that probably would have avoided the plaintiff’s injury. Two successful suits against the National Spa and Pool Institute, the standard development organization for swimming pools illustrate the current law. This article criticizes the opinions in those suits and contends that, on policy grounds, courts should dismiss these suits against standard development organizations on the ground of “no duty” or should grant the organization a qualified privilege when it develops standards. Such a privilege would require a plaintiff to show that the organization developed its standards in bad faith. The contours of “bad faith” in this context are then discussed.

Keywords: Standard Development Organization, Duty, Open-ended Liability, jury competence, First Amendment

Suggested Citation

Heidt, Robert H., Damned for Their Judgment: The Tort Liability of Standard Development Organizations. Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 45, 2010; Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 163. Available at SSRN:

Robert H. Heidt (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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