In reading 10.2, George Brenkert analyses a challenging and timely social issue to argue that our current doctrine of strict product liability is inadequate. The issue is harm caused by guns being used in ways that were not intended by the manufacturers (namely to kill or harm innocent people). The article’s statistics are dated, but his argument is not. Here are three facts that make strict product liability rules inadequate in the case of gun deaths, according to Brenkert:
1) The product is not defective
2) It does what it was designed to do
3) It seems unreasonable to blame the harm on any direct negligence on the part of the manufacturers
Brenkert outlines a new kind of product liability, which he calls “Social products liability”, to argue that gun makers share some of the moral responsibility or burden for harm caused by guns. Guns are just the product Brenkert examines to justify a theory he feels should apply to a broad group of products. Brenkert is not a lawyer, and he is not sketching out a legal doctrine, but a MORAL one. Nonetheless, were society to adopt his proposal, laws regarding product liability would have to change or expand.
Paper topic One
Brenkert presents four conditions which he feels are individually necessary and collectively sufficient to assign partial responsibility to gun manufacturers for the unintended harm caused by guns. Pick one or two of these conditions and explore in depth Brenkert’s reasoning behind including them in determining “social product liability.” In your analysis, raise at least one potential complication or objection to the condition(s) you are examining in Brenkert’s argument. Conclude your essay by giving at least one substantial paragraph of your own critique of his overall proposal for expanding our notion of liability to include “social products liability”.
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