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  • Revision:1995 Edition, July 1, 1995
  • Published Date:July 1, 1995
  • Status:Active, Most Current
  • Document Language:English
  • Published By:SAE International (SAE)
  • Page Count:368
  • ANSI Approved:No
  • DoD Adopted:No


    The intent of this book is to introduce the engineer to what hemay expect to encounter in a matter of litigation. Being sointroduced, the engineer may:
    • be able to avoid litigation altogether,
    • know what leads to litigation,
    • understand what accidents are, and how they are caused,
    • learn something about the litigation process,
    • realize the importance of decisions made by an engineer,
    • be aware of how the engineer can assist the attorney,
    • know what to expect in discovery, in deposition, and at trial,and
    • know how to best conduct himself in those situations.

    By exploring these subjects, the engineer will be lessfrightened by the prospect of litigation and more effective inassisting his company or his attorneyclient. He will understand theimportance of his professional work and his obligations tosociety.

    You will probably become familiar with the courtroom and withlitigation through the same means as many others—you will be askedto defend a de-sign for which you held responsibility. You won'tparticularly like the idea of being told through anofficial-looking piece of paper that "You have been summoned toappear" before a court reporter and a group of attorneys for adeposition in a matter that involved serious injuries to aplaintiff. You will be told that you would be expected to producecertain written information, records, and other documents. You willalso be told that the attorneys will ask questions of you and thatyou will answer those questions under oath and under penalty ofperjury.

    But you haven't done anything wrong! Why you? Simply because youwere the engineer in charge of the product or design and because,under the rules of litigation, the plaintiff has the right to"discover" information and to question you about the product andits design.

    In a nutshell, when you design a machine or a product, you havean obligation to society that the product be "reasonably safe" and"not defective or dangerous for its intended uses."

    Now, that is not an unreal expectation. When a customer paysmoney for a product, he has a right to expect it to work properly,and the plaintiff in a matter of litigation is merely exercisinghis right to claim—if it is provable— that your product did notwork as he expected, and that he had been injured in some way bythat lack of proper performance. He may make that claim throughproper procedures in an appropriate court.

    You may be somewhat frightened in this situation, until youdiscover that one proper response to a claim may be to describe theproduct, the way it was designed, and the proper use and care forthe product. Then, if you discover that the plaintiff's claims werebased upon some incorrect assumptions on his part (or on the partof his attorney, possibly) you may point out those errors. Byexplaining the proper way the machine works, and by showing how theaccident really happened, you may be able to refute the claims. Ajury then, may find no fault in the design.

    As a designer, you have a lot of publics to satisfy. You mustdesign a product that will be successful for your employer. Yoursupervisor must be convinced that he can depend on you and yourprofessional abilities. The product must meet the general plans andobjectives of the business that pays your salary. You need to carefor your family.