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3.10-5  Product Liability - Malfunction Doctrine

New December 9, 2011

When direct evidence of a specific defect is unavailable, you may rely on circumstantial evidence to infer that the product that malfunctioned was defective at the time it left the defendant’s control if the plaintiff has presented evidence establishing that (1) the incident that caused the plaintiff's harm was of a kind that ordinarily does not occur in the absence of a product defect, and (2) any defect most likely existed at the time the product left the defendant’s control and was not the result of other reasonably possible causes, such as operator error, not attributable to the defendant. These two inferences, taken together, permit you to link the plaintiff's injury to a product defect attributable to the defendant.

The malfunction theory does not relieve the plaintiff of proving that the product in question was defective. However, it does permit you to infer the existence of a defect without direct evidence of same.


Metropolitan Property & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Deere & Co., 302 Conn. 123, 132-49 (2011).


This charge must be given in conjunction with the circumstantial evidence charge, Direct and Circumstantial Evidence, Instruction 2.4-1. The type of circumstantial evidence may “includ[e] evidence of (1) the history and use of the particular product, (2) the manner in which the product malfunctioned, (3) similar malfunctions in similar products that may negate the possibility of other causes, (4) the age of the product in relation to its life expectancy, and (5) the most likely causes of the malfunction.” Metropolitan Property & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Deere & Co., supra, 302 Conn. 140-41. “If lay witnesses and common experience are not sufficient to remove the case from the realm of speculation, the plaintiff will need to present expert testimony to establish a prima facie case.” Id., 141.


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