Revolutionary Hot Coffee Lawsuits Filed in California

According to a report from ABC-30 (Fresno, CA), two Fresno women have recently filed suit against McDonald’s alleging that they sustained burns caused by hot coffee. There is nothing unique or interesting about two new hot coffee suits as they have been commonplace in the 20+ years since the infamous jury verdict in Liebeck v. McDonald’s. What is interesting, however, is that Plaintiffs’ counsel and ABC-30 seem to think they made some newfound discovery as to the reason these suits keep popping up. As reported by ABC-30:

Wagner says hotter coffee stays fresh longer, so McDonald’s usually chooses to keep it too hot — saving more than $1 million a day at franchises across the country. Legal analyst Jeff Hammerschmidt says that savings may be more valuable than customer safety. ‘It appears McDonald’s has made a business decision to sell the coffee hotter to be able to make more profit and they continue to make more profit even if they’re paying settlements,” he said.

In other words, McDonald’s serves hot coffee because it is good for business. Talk about a newsflash.

We jest at this recent epiphany about the association between hot coffee and higher profits, but the argument is clearly nothing new. The argument was pivotal in the Liebeck  trial and the jury based its $2.7 million punitive damages award on McDonald’s two day revenue from hot coffee sales. In any event, this “corporate greed” theory ignores the simple point made here at Abnormal Use many times – coffee is served hot because people like it that way. In discussing a hot coffee suit filed against Chick-Fil-A back in 2011, we had this to say about the hot coffee-sales comparison:

Back in 1994, Plaintiff’s expert Dr. Charles Baxter opined during the Liebeck trial that the optimal temperature to serve coffee was between 155 and 160 degrees. Defense expert Dr. Turner Osler indicated that coffee served at a temperature as low as 130 degrees could result in burns similar to those sustained by Ms. Liebeck. Further, Reed Morgan, Ms. Liebeck’s counsel, theorized that any coffee served over 140 degrees was “unreasonably dangerous.” If this testimony from the Liebeck trial is true, why do top fast food chains continue to serve an allegedly “dangerous product?” Either restaurants have a diabolical agenda to harm their patrons or they have recognized that people enjoy their coffee piping hot.

The ABC affiliate’s study demonstrates that the Liebeck case did little, if anything, to alter the manner in which fast food restaurants serve coffee. Further, it reveals that the conduct of McDonald’s in the early 1990s conformed to industry standards – both then and now. Critics of the restaurant chain – and those who attempt to use the Liebeck case to advance the agenda of the Plaintiffs’ bar – simply fail to acknowledge the fact that coffee, by its very nature, is meant to be served hot. No one wants to consume a lukewarm cup of sub-140 degree coffee. Restaurants recognize this fact, as do consumers of coffee. Why can’t the trial bar? If Mr. Morgan honestly believes that any coffee served at a temperature greater than 140 degrees is “unreasonably dangerous,” then he essentially argues that coffee should be taken off of restaurant menus. Starbucks did not become a morning staple because of its iced coffee selections.

Does McDonald’s serve hot coffee because it is concerned about its bottom line?  Sure, it does, but what business doesn’t act in ways to maximize profits?  McDonald’s, Starbucks, or any other coffee-selling establishment serves coffee hot because the consumer demands it.  And, for this reason, we have questioned whether coffee can be construed as “unreasonably dangerous” in most situations.

On an interesting note, ABC-30 measured the serving temperature at the McDonald’s at issue in the recent lawsuits and found the temperature to be 153 degrees – less than the optimal serving temperature prescribed by the plaintiff’s expert in the Liebeck case. The coffee in ABC-30‘s break room? It was served at 167.5 degrees.

Mozzarella v. McDonald’s: The Latest Chapter in the Restaurant’s Litigation Saga


We here at Abnormal Use have written much about McDonald’s and its history with absurd lawsuits. Of course, much of the discourse centered around the infamous Stella Liebeck hot coffee case and its progeny. As much as we have downplayed its significance, we must admit that the most recent suit filed against McDonald’s makes the Liebeck case look like Marbury v. Madison. According to a report from, a California man has filed a class action lawsuit against the fast food chain seeking $5 million in damages over purportedly defective mozzarella sticks. Kind of makes burns from a cup of hot coffee sound like child’s play.

So how was the man (or the proposed class) injured by the McDonald’s mozzarella sticks you ask? They weren’t. At least not in a way that necessitated medical attention. The plaintiff, Chris Howe, takes issue with McDonald’s claims that the sticks are “100% real cheese” and “real mozzarella.” Specifically, Howe alleges:

The sticks are filled with a substance that is composed (in part) of starch, in violation of the federal standards of identity for ‘mozzarella’ cheese, and contrary to reasonable consumers’ expectations regarding the meaning of the term ‘mozzarella.’

Howe believes McDonald’s cut costs by using a starch filler to comprise 3.76 percent of the “cheese,” and, thus, has engaged in deceptive practices. For the record, McDonald’s denies the allegations, stating that the mozzarella sticks are made with “100% low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese.” Whatever that means.

Regardless of the genetic make-up of the McDonald’s mozzarella sticks, the real question is whether anyone can actually be deceived by their contents. Last we checked, the mozzarella sticks are a new item made a part of the “2 for $2” menu. In layman’s terms, a customer can get mozzarella sticks and a double cheeseburger for $2. Federal standards for identifying “mozzarella” aside, don’t expect the finest organic, farm-to-table ingredients in dollar cheese sticks. And, if you really think McDonald’s is an appropriate destination to satisfy for mozzarella craving, don’t expect anyone to fork over $5 million when they don’t live up to your expectations.

Lip Balm Users Rejoice, EOS Lawsuit Settled As Quickly As It Began

Just a couple weeks ago, we wrote about the new class action lawsuit over the insanely popular Evolution of Smooth (EOS) lip balm. In that suit, the plaintiffs allege that even though the EOS packaging claims the product makes lips “moist, soft, and sensationally smooth,” the lip balm allegedly caused blisters and rashes around the mouth. We questioned whether there was any inherent difference between the ingredients of EOS lip balm and its competitors, and in so doing, and we became curious how the suit might fare. Well, according to new reports, the wait is over. Unfortunately, questions remain.

As reported by Today, EOS has announced that it resolved the lawsuit as soon as it began. While the full terms of the settlement are unclear, EOS will not be required to change any of its ingredients, but the packaging will contain more details about those ingredients and how to use the product safely. The financial terms of the settlement have not yet been disclosed.

EOS had the following to say about the agreement:

We are pleased to announce that the class action lawsuit brought against eos earlier this month has been resolved. Our products are safe — and this settlement confirms that. Our lip balms are hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested, made with the highest quality ingredients, meet or exceed all safety and quality standards set by our industry and are validated by rigorous safety testing conducted by independent labs. We love our customers and their enjoyment of our products is our top priority. We thank them for their continued support.

The quick settlement of this class action suit is quite interesting. Clearly, EOS wanted to send the simple message that there is nothing defective about its product. Resolving the case early and with a statement that all of the product ingredients will remain the same certainly makes good business sense and likely puts the clamps on loyal customers who may have thought about switching to a competitor.  But, the question remains, at what cost? For a product that is safe, we hope for EOS sake that any financial settlement was in the cost of defense range.

The most intriguing part of the settlement is, of course, the agreement to add instructions to the product packaging on how to use the product safely. While we are admittedly novice lip balm users and in no way consider ourselves to be experts, we are curious as to how users could use lip balm in an unsafe manner. It seems inherent in the name that lip balm is to be applied to the lips. But, surely, that is not the issue. Maybe the instructions say something about not applying the lip balm obsessively every five minutes? But, if the product keeps lips “moist, soft and sensationally smooth,” how can constant application be a bad thing? We are so confused.

The Dark Side Lives: Darth Vader Infant Bodysuits Recalled Over Choking Hazard


The dark side of the Force did not die along with Darth Vader at the hands of Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. Before you start accusing us of giving away The Force Awakens spoilers (as if there is anyone who hasn’t already seen the film), hear us out. We here at Abnormal Use have substantial proof that the dark side is alive and well and not tucked away in a galaxy far, far away. Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) announced that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has recalled Darth Vader infant bodysuits because they are harmful to innocent children in the most predictable, dark side fashion. The bodysuits, which contain the slogan, “If you only knew the power of THE DARK SIDE” pose a choking hazard to children. And, the Force choke lives on.

Darth Vader Infant Bodysuit

In an attempt to hide the presence of the dark side, the CPSC claims that the hazard posed by the Vader bodysuit is not the Force choke but detaching snaps which somehow find their way into infants’ mouths.  But who does the CPSC and Walt Disney Parks think they are fooling? We recognize the power of a Sith Lord when we see it.

The recall apparently also includes Disneyland 60th Anniversary infant bodysuits but clearly those suits were also touched by Vader’s power in the factory. For those that actually believe it is possible to rid the world of the dark side, the bodysuits can be returned for a full refund. Nonetheless, the CPSC will continue to monitor any disturbances in the Force.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians: EOS Lip Balm Edition

Fueled by attractive containers and endorsements by high-profile celebs like Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears, EOS (Evolution of Smooth) lip balm has created a fad out of keeping one’s lips chap-free. Need proof? Walk through the halls of an elementary, middle, or high school or the grounds of a college campus, and you will undoubtedly see EOS lip balm in the hands of many. Unfortunately, all is allegedly not well with EOS lip balm, however. According to a new class action lawsuit, when you walk through those same school halls, you will also see rashes and blistered lips. Not exactly EOS’ target result.

As reported by Time, Plaintiff Rachel Cronin has filed a class action suit in California against EOS, alleging that the lip balm causes lips to crack, bleed, and blister. Cronin alleges that her lips felt like “sandpaper” hours after using EOS lip balm. She then re-applied the product to “smooth” her skin, but it caused her lips to crack, flake, and bleed. The next day, she allegedly had blisters and rashes around her mouth. Those symptoms allegedly lasted for 10 days. The EOS packaging claims to be 95 percent organic and able to keep lips “moist, soft, and sensationally smooth.”

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Dr. Marie Jhin, a San Francisco dermatologist, opined that the reactions to EOS lip balm are allergic contact dermatitis, possibly in response to Vitamin E contained in the product. Dr. Lauren Ploch, a New Orleans dermatologist, stated that while she did not know what is causing the symptoms for EOS users, many or her patients are allergic to natural oils such as beeswax, a component of EOS lip balm.

This will be an interesting suit to watch as it unfolds. If this is really an issue about Vitamin E or beeswax, EOS is certainly not the only lip balm manufacturer to utilize those ingredients. It is just the only one to have megastar endorsements.

My Cousin Vinny CLE? Sign Us Up (If Only We Lived In Pennsylvania)!

As the calendar turns to a new year, it is time to check on the status of your continuing education credits. If you are a few hours short an just happen to practice in Pennsyvlania, we have found the perfect CLE opportunity for you. On January 21, 2016, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute is sponsoring a very intriguing CLE entitled,”A Morning With My Cousin Vinny:  Developing and Presenting Your Case.” According to the course website, the CLE will offer insights on numerous trial techniques, including cross-examination, expert witnesses, eyewitnesses, discovery, and opening statements, presumably with My Cousin Vinny as a backdrop.  The course offers three substantive CLE credits and well as one ethics credit.

As is the case with many lawyers, we here at Abnormal Use are quite fond of My Cousin Vinny. So much so that back in 2012, we honored the 20th anniversary of the film by dedicating a whole week of blog space to Vinny-related posts, including interviews with the writer, director, actors, and our own lessons learned from the film. It goes without saying that we were more than pleased to learn about the PBI’s Vinny initiative and wish all states would use the film as a teaching tool. For example, here are few of the Vinny lessons we previously reflected upon:

Lesson 1 – Pick Your Battles

Scene:  Vinny doesn’t ask any questions at the preliminary hearing.  His client, Stan, angrily asks, “Why didn’t you ask them any questions? Maybe if you’d put up some kind of a fight, you could have gotten the case thrown out!”  Vinny calmly responds, “Hey, Stan, you’re in Ala-f*&%in’-bama. You come from New York. You killed a good ol’ boy. There is no way this is not going to trial!”

Lesson:  Sometimes, as an attorney, you need to know when to pick your battles.  Of course, by this point in the movie, Vinny didn’t have all the great exculpatory evidence he acquired later.  However, Vinny is probably right that  there was no way the case would be resolved without a trial.  It may have been a smart move to play it close to the vest and not reveal too much of his trial strategy.

Lesson 2 – No Argument in the Opening Statement

Scene:  The prosecutor, Jim Trotter, delivers a textbook opening statement – a fine recitation of the prosecution’s version of the facts combined with a clever attempt to massage the  jury’s collective ego.  Then, Vinny stands and delivers his own rather brief opening statement:  “Uh . . . everything that guy just said is bullsh*t. Thank you.”

Lesson: You’ve been dying to deliver this same opening statement for years, haven’t you?  It’s punchy; it cuts right to the chase.  But alas, such a retort is an improper argument.  Perhaps Vinny should have saved that approach for his closing argument.

Lesson 3 – Match Your Negotiation Strategy to Your Opponent

Scene:  Vinny finds out his girlfriend got stiffed on a game of pool with some yokel.  He flies down to the pool hall to collect, and the yokel asks, “How ‘bout I just kick your ass?”  Vinny retorts, “Oh, a counter-offer. This is a tough decision here. Get my ass kicked or collect $200?  Well, here’s my counter-offer: What if I were just to kick the ever loving sh!t out of you? . . . If I was to kick the sh!t out of you, do I get the money?”

Lesson: So much for that “Getting to YES” model where everybody wins.  Vinny invokes the old school tradition in his negotiations. Sometimes, that works.  It’s all about knowing your opponent.  Some are unreasonable. There’s no getting to “yes” without cracking skulls and forcing them to into agreement.  Vinny’s method succeeded, and he eventually collected that $200.

Lesson 4 – Do Some Digging

Scene:  There’s a long montage where Vinny performs his own investigation into the case.  He has his girlfriend take some photographs along the way.  Vinny is clearly annoyed when she’s trying to show him the pictures in the middle of trial.  He starts ranting, “Where’d you shoot this, from up in a tree? What’s this over here? It’s dog sh!t… That’s great! Dog sh%t, what a clue! . . . I should’ve asked you along time ago for these pictures.”  But then he realizes there’s a picture of the tire tracks, which really is the case cracker.

Lesson:  Most of the time, the facts will make or break your case.  As an attorney, you can’t always wait for the facts and evidence to come to you.  Even when you think you’ve got everything you need, keep digging.  Get out there and visit the accident scene, personally inspect the physical evidence, and talk to everyone you think knows anything about the case.  You never know what you are going to find if you keep digging.  It sure paid off for Vinny in his trial, and some day, that same diligence may pay off for you in one of your cases.

Lesson 5 – Be Collegial with Fellow Attorneys

Scene:  At one point in the movie, Vinny and the prosecutor engage in friendly discussion about their entry into the legal profession.  Later in the film, the prosecutor takes Vinny on a hunting trip, lets him borrow his cabin, and even congratulates him after Vinny’s victory over him at trial.

Lesson:  It’s a given that you should be a zealous advocate for your client.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t be civil, or even friendly, with opposing counsel.  At the end of the day, you are both just doing your job.  As everyone knows, one’s profession is more enjoyable when you’re working with friendly and respectful people.  Two attorneys should be able to duke it out in the courtroom and then grab a drink together after the trial concludes.

Lesson 6 – Stay Calm

Scene: As Vinny’s defense of his clients begins to unravel, he asks himself, “How the f*&k did I get into this sh!t?”  Luckily, Vinny keeps it together and eventually earns his clients their freedom.

Lesson: For many attorneys, your first trial will feel just like this movie (although hopefully, it won’t be as bad in reality).  You’ll have things that will go way off course, and there will probably be a point where you feel like you’re in way over your head.  You may even start asking yourself “Am I cut out for this?” or “How did I get into this?”  Don’t despair. Stay calm and press on.  By your second or third trial, things will seem much better.

There is certainly much, much more that can be learned from the movie and we are sure our friends with the PBI will do an excellent job of bring it to the everyday practice of the CLE attendees. For those of you who don’t live in Pennsylvania and remain interested in seeing what the film says about expert testimony, eyewitness testimony, opening statements, and discovery, feel free to check out these interviews on those subjects (and more) with the Jonathan Lynn (director), Dale Launer (writer), Raynor Scheine (actor who plays an eyewitness), and James Rebhorn (actor who plays State’s expert witness).


New Year, New Apple Lawsuit

With the new year comes yet another Apple lawsuit. This one has nothing to do with patents, Samsung, reception issues, or any of the other plethora of things Apple has litigated in the past. This suit concerns the functionality of the iOS 9 software – not on those new iPhone 6 or 6s’s, but on the ancient (by technology standards) iPhone 4s. According to a report from Tech Times, Plaintiff Chaim Lerman filed a class action suit in New York, alleging that the iOS 9 software upgrade puts a damper on the iPhone 4s experience. Specifically, the suit alleges:

The update significantly slowed down their iPhones and interfered with the normal usage of the device, leaving Plaintiff with a difficult choice: use a slow and buggy device that disrupts everyday life or spend hundreds of dollars to buy a new phone.  . . . Apple explicitly represented to the public that iOS 9 is compatible with and supports the iPhone 4s. And Apple failed to warn iPhone 4s owners that the update may or will interfere with the device’s performance.

Moreover, the plaintiffs allege that Apple is “aware and has been aware” that the iPhone 4s is negatively affected by the software update. The disgruntled iPhone 4s users seek $5 million in damages.

We here at Abnormal Use are on the fence about this lawsuit. On the one hand, we can sympathize with the plaintiffs’ fateful plight. We, too, hate when we have a device which works to our liking and a company pushes a software update that seems to adversely affect its performance. It is even worse when the update is forced and irrevocable. Like these plaintiffs, we have spoken ill about more than one device (this isn’t limited to an Apple or phone problem) as a result.

While we can sympathize with the plaintiffs on the performance issue, the lawsuit violates the pig rule. Rather than stop at a point which can gather support, the suit goes on to argue that because of the iOS ecosystem, users are far more likely to buy a new iPhone than switch to an Android phone so they don’t have to reinvest in nontransferable content such as apps. In other words, Apple has knowingly slowed down their phones, forcing them to buy new ones while making it difficult to switch to the competition. So, Apple should be found liable by not making it easier to throw out their product and jump onto the Android bandwagon? We are thinking that argument is just not going to fly.

The real issue here is that the plaintiffs are a class of iPhone 4s users. Apple released the 4s way, way back in October 2011. In terms of technology in the smartphone industry, it might as well have been released in 1911. As we stated back in 2013 regarding another Apple lawsuit:

Apple releases new iPhone models every 6 months, making you feel that your barely used phone is outdated. Apple doesn’t need to tamper with your phone to get you to buy a new one. They already use enough trickery in the marketplace.

At a certain point, it has to be time for an upgrade, right?

Give Us That Product Back! The First Line Of Defense To Potential Hoverboard Litigation.

Hoverboards have been in the news a lot in recent days. Unfortunately for hoverboard manufacturers, the added press has not been of the favorable variety. As we recently discussed, numerous outlets have been reporting that hoverboards are spontaneously catching fire. And, apparently, burning hoverboards are a bit of a problem. Not exactly the news hoverboard companies wanted to see just in time for the busiest retail season of the year.

It goes without saying that the potential to suddenly engulf in flames raises a number of product liability concerns for hoverboard manufacturers and others within the supply chain. With so many reports of allegedly defective products, what is a company to do when staring into the face of potential litigation? One option is to instruct hoverboard owners to trash the product. As reported by Yahoo!, online giant Amazon has decided to follow this path, instructing users in the United Kingdom to turn their boards over to a certified recycling center in exchange for a full refund. In addition, Amazon has pulled the vast majority of its hoverboards for sale in the United States. We are sure the Consumer Product Safety Commission is pleased.

Instructing users to discard a product in exchange for a full refund raises some interesting issues. The move is certainly noble and made with great expense to Amazon. However, despite the numerous news reports and instructions to discard the product, there will be many who continue to view hoverboards as a viable means of transportation. So what happens when those people (who either ignore the news or are completely unaware of it) become injured when their hoverboards catch fire? Amazon will undoubtedly argue that it warned the user not to use the hoverboard and that the user assumed the risk of being injured. Unfortunately, however, assumption of the risk may not be recognized as a valid defense to strict liability claims in some jurisdictions, leaving Amazon exposed despite its best efforts to protect itself.

The more pressing issue might be what are parents to do after telling their children that Santa needs to take their hoverboards back? We imagine the emotional distress the parents will feel when explaining that the elves made a product that might catch on fire is astronomical. We are uncertain how Amazon has prepared to handle that massive class action.

Bethesda Makes Games So Good They Are Addicting, New Suit Claims


If you are a gamer, chances are you have asked Santa to bring you one of the season’s hot new releases.  For us here at Abnormal Use, Bethesda’s Fallout 4 tops our wish list. We love the open world role-playing games and can’t wait to see how the newest edition of the Fallout series translates to next-gen consoles. If it is anything like prior Bethesda titles, we can expect hundreds of hours of entertainment. By “hundreds of hours,” we, of course, don’t mean hundreds of consecutive hours. More like hundreds of hours spread out over hundreds of days. After all, we are adults, and we have families and jobs and all kinds of other non-video game playing responsibilities (including the writing of blog posts!).

Unfortunately, one gamer in Russia failed to recognize his own responsibilities and ultimately filed suit against Bethesda as a result. According to a report from MaximumPC, the 28-year old gamer became so obsessed with Fallout 4 that he went on a three week gaming bender and shut himself off from the outside world. As much as we love gaming, the world is not quite accepting of the three week gaming session. In this case, the man lost his job, his wife, and his health as a result. Now, he thinks Bethesda should pay for making a game so good that he found it a good idea to hole himself up in his home playing it. In a statement given by the unnamed plaintiff, he summed up his specific complaints against Bethesda as follows:

If I knew that this game could have become so addictive, I would have become a lot more wary of it. I would not have bought it, or I would have left it until I was on holiday or until the New Year holidays.

In a way, we can almost sympathize with the man. From past experience, we know that it is not uncommon to become so immersed in these Bethesda RPGs that time simply flies by. Thirty minutes can easily become three hours when playing an entertaining game. There have certainly been more than a few nights we have found ourselves crawling into bed a couple of hours past our bedtime as a result.

With that said, even though our “30 minutes” may have turned into “three hours,” it has never turned into “three weeks.” Even if we could find the time, we can’t even imagine how any reasonable person would want to do anything for three weeks straight, much less play the same (albeit incredibly entertaining) game. Unless Fallout 4 emits heroin through the television screen, there is simply no way it can be so addictive. Reasonable people can separate life from gaming and won’t put their families and jobs on the line for entertainment.

This is one of those lawsuits where you have to ask if the plaintiff really wants to prevail. In the short term, a win may mean some financial compensation. In the long term, however, a win would mean less “addictive” games. In other words, holding a video game maker liable for making a game so good it becomes addictive would necessarily lead to game makers making worse games to shield themselves from liability. For a guy that loves gaming so much he thinks it is acceptable to devote three straight weeks of his life to it, we are guessing this result may have a more devastating result on this plaintiff’s life than the loss of his job and his wife in the first place.

3D Printers: The Legal Implications of the Perfect Gift for Technology Lovers

If you are technology geeks like us, you may be hoping that Santa’s elves have integrated the construction of 3D printers into their work regimen this holiday season. If so, you may be lucky enough to have limitless design and manufacturing capabilities right at your fingertips. Whether it is a product of your own design or the replication of another, 3D printers afford users the opportunity to become both designer and manufacturer right from your own home. But let the buyer beware. With such power, comes great responsibility.

Before you harness the power of your new 3D printer, it is important to know exactly what a 3D printer is. Like its name implies, 3D printing is the process of “printing” three-dimensional objects. Unlike traditional printing, 3D printing utilizes a process known as additive manufacturing to create three-dimensional objects of almost any shape or geometry. Rather than simply copying a two-dimensional image onto a sheet of paper, the additive process creates an object by laying down thinly sliced, horizontal cross-sections of material until the entire object is created.

Typically, the 3D printing process begins in one of two ways:  (1) the user can create a virtual design using a 3D modeling program, or (2) the user can use a 3D scanner to make a three-dimensional copy of an existing object which is transferred to the 3D modeling program. Thereafter, the 3D modeling program slices the model into thousands of horizontal layers which are uploaded to the 3D printer. The 3D printer then creates the object in successive layers of liquid, powder, paper or sheet metal.  Materials such as plastic, sand, or metal can be used through the 3D print nozzle to create the final object. Simple enough, right?

As amazing as it may sound to play amateur designer/manufacturer, we have to warn you that the law may want to limit your fun. For starters, you may want to brush up on the concept of copyright infringement before you start replicating any and every item in your purview. Additive manufacturing drastically raises the risk of the production of counterfeit products. With your printer, you can instantly discover the “formula” of any product by scanning it with a 3D scanner and recreating it by uploading the digital file. All of this would, of course, be in violation of any copyrights held by the product manufacturer.

If copyright infringement is not enough, you also may want to consider our good friend, product liability. 3D printed objects may lack the quality of traditional products due to the nature of their construction. 3D printed objects are constructed in layers rather than as solid pieces from a mold.   While it is uncertain as to whether the perceived quality deficiency of 3D printed objects equates to a higher likelihood of failure and risk to the user, it is conceivable that this could be the case. Moreover, 3D printers, like any other printer or manufacturing machine, may also make mistakes in transcribing the digital file. Corruption can also occur in the digital file itself and result in the production of a defective product.

Above all else, the most problematic issue is trying to figure out where you, as at-home manufacturer, fit into the supply chain. Let’s say you decide to sell the objects you produce with your printer. Those objects were generated using a 3D scanner to copy an existing product manufactured by Company X which the you purchased at Store Y.  What happens when one of your customers purchases the 3D printed object from you and is injured due to a design defect in the product? Who is liable? Could you be liable for creating the 3D product? What about the manufacturer of the 3D printer? The manufacturer of the original product? The retailer who sold the original product?  Conceivably, all of the above could face liability under a traditional product liability theory. But it could also be arguable that you, as the at-home manufacturer, should bear the brunt of the liability. Strict liability product law traditionally only applies to designers, manufacturers and suppliers of allegedly defective products. So expect to hear arguments that these entities should not be liable for 3D copies of their products, particularly if the alleged defect arises from the copying process. If successful, you might find yourself wishing you had never gotten that Christmas gift in the first place.

We here at Abnormal Use give you this advice not as a means of keeping you away from 3D printers. In fact, we would love to have one ourselves. Rather, we just advise you to use caution. Resist the urge to replicate everything in your house and design your own products. Preferably those that won’t injure anybody.