The United States District Court for the District of Montana recently certified an important question of products liability law to the Montana Supreme Court. United States Senior District Judge Paul J. Hatfield certified the following question:
In a strict products liability case for injuries caused by an inherently unsafe product, is the manufacturer conclusively presumed to know the dangers inherent in his product, or is stateof- the-art evidence admissible to establish whether the manufacturer knew or through the exercise of reasonable human foresight should have known of the danger?
Because the issue of the admissibility of state-of-the-art evidence in a products liability case is important to the jurisprudence of products liability law in Montana but is an unresolved question, the issue warrants analysis. This essay undertakes that effort.
The piece first affords a brief overview of state of the art. The essay next examines the origins and development of products liability law in Montana and whether the Montana Supreme Court or the Montana Legislature has expressly addressed the issue of state of the art. Finding that the court has spoken with greater specificity than the legislature but that neither entity has treated the question with much particularity, the paper then evaluates additional sources of law which the Montana Supreme Court might consult in resolving this issue. The essay concludes with suggestions for how the court should resolve the question of the admissibility of state of the art in Montana.
Carl Tobias, State of the Art in Montana Products Liability Law, 57 Mont. L. Rev. 493 (1996)