ENFP 435 - Product Liability and Government Regulation

 (3 credits)


  • Junior Standing.


  • None.

Course Description

  • Key topics include, biotechnology, safety regulation, federal preemption, product liability, professional negligence, antitrust, privacy and information technology, risk modeling, environmental protection, patent, copyright, trade secrets, reverse engineering, scientific and technological evidence, international trade, engineering ethics. Examples include plane crashes, computer chip protection, human machine interfaces, nuclear power plants, internet censorship, flood control, earthquakes and biomedical technology.

Course Objectives

  • This analytical course is designed to explore the complex relationship between the legal system and technological development.
  • The course focuses on engineering design and the response of the regulatory and liability systems.
  • The course is designed to familiarize the student with the legal and ethical constraints on the engineering design process by studying a series of design cases and the regulations or litigation that interacted with the design decisions.

Topics Covered

  • Introduction to the Legal control of Technology: making public policy through law-externalities, public and private choices, system failure, HMS Titanic.
  • Regulatory Effectiveness Analysis: How well does technical regulation work? Ford Explorer/ Firestone tire, Engineering Ethics.
  • Nature of the Regulatory process: Lancastrian analysis, pot liner and seat belt anchor cases.
  • Technical and policy decision making: mandarins and managers, contents flammability.
  • Innovation: What does compliance with standards mean in the context of innovation? (technological frame, regulatory model).
  • Rulemaking and Adjudication Regulatory Agencies: FAA, OSHA, FDA, EPA, NRC, CPSC, DOT.
  • Personal injury & Liability Negligence and Product Design.
  • Personal Injury & Liability Warranty and Strict Liability.
  • Technical culture: product safety in the in the European community, international comparisons in technical regulation.
  • Computer privacy: censorship.
  • The future: telemedicine, internet commerce.
  • Trials evidence: Daubert, Kumho tire and the junk science debate.
  • Preemption Federal state relationships: Tort reform.