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Regulating Product Safety in Georgia

Authored By: Carl Vinson Institute
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Regulating Product Safety in Georgia

This document tells you the following:

  • What two types of laws relate to product safety?
  • What is product liability?
  • What are some examples of federal laws concerned with public safety?
  • What are some of the agencies that work to protect consumer safety and what areas do these agencies cover?
  • What is Georgia's "lemon law"?

Regulating Product Safety

The regulation of product safety is similar to that of product quality. However, the protections of the consumer from unsafe products are broader and cannot be so easily waived. The area of state law governing product safety is known as Products Liability Law. Products liability is part of a larger body of law called torts, which deals with the rights of individuals to recover damages for personal injuries. This aspect of tort law puts responsibilities for product safety on the maker and seller; both can be held liable for damages.

Under Georgia law, manufacturers of goods are strictly liable for injuries caused by their defective products. Defective products are not safe for their intended use, either because of a problem with their design or because of a defect resulting from the manufacturing process. Strict liability means that it is not necessary to show that the manufacturer was negligent or careless in failing to discover that its product was defective. The idea behind strict liability is that manufacturers who put goods on the market are in a better position than individual consumers to pay the costs of injuries that their products cause.

Strict liability also gives manufacturers an added incentive to produce safe products. Any person injured by the use of a defective product may sue the manufacturer under the law of strict liability, even if that person was not the original buyer of the product. The principle of strict liability differs from the protection provided by warranties, which usually only protect the buyer of the product. Georgia law also requires manufacturers and sellers of consumer goods to provide adequate warnings about the dangers associated with their products. Manufacturers and sellers may be liable if they fail to do so.

In addition, because of concerns about safety, a number of federal laws set standards for product safety:

Examples of Federal Laws Concerned with Public Safety:

  • 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act Prohibits mislabeling of food, liquor, and medicine containers.
  • 1907 Agricultural Meat Inspection Act Requires regulation and inspection of meat-packing plangs engaged in interstate commerce. Extended to plants doing in-state business in 1967.
  • 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Strengthens 1906 act and adds requirements for advertising and labeling cosmetics.
  • 1953 Flammable Fabrics Actand later amendments Allow banning of sale of flame-prone clothes and household furnishings.
  • 1960 Hazardous Substances Labeling Actand later amendments Set labeling requirement for hazardous (poisonous, corrosive, and flammable) products.
  • 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act Sets safety standards for design of motor vehicles and requires certain lifesaving equipment in motor vehicles.
  • 1966 Child Protection Act and 1970 Toy Safety Act Allow banning of products dangerous to health and safety of children.
  • 1968 Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act Sets standards for certain electronic products and limits on radiation emission by products such as color TVs and microwave ovens.

There are also numerous agencies that work to protect consumer safety. The oldest federal agency is the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It reviews all drugs for safety, effectiveness, and correct labeling. If it is claimed that a food has nutritional value, then its package must be labeled. It must state the product's name, manufacturer, weight, and ingredients. The FDA is also responsible for cosmetic safety. It does not test cosmetics, but it does act on consumer complaints.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission can issue safety warnings about unsafe products. It can also prohibit the sale of dangerous ones.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration establishes and enforces safety standards for autos, trucks, buses, bicycles, and motorcycles. The agency also investigates complaints about the safety of motor vehicles. It can require a manufacturer to recall all models with safety defects and repair them at no cost to the consumer.

In 1990, Georgia enacted a "lemon" law. This law says that if a dealer has tried unsuccessfully a specified number of times to solve a problem with a new car that does not work satisfactorily (a "lemon"), the owner is entitled to a replacement or refund.

The state has another role in regulating product safety. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of agricultural products bought and sold in the state. It administers inspections of meat, poultry, and milk. The department is also concerned with proper packaging and labeling and with the accuracy of commercial scales.

* Excerpted from An Introduction to Law in Georgia, Third Edition, published by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, 1998 (updated 2001). The Vinson Institute is not responsible for errors in the online text. Content is for information only; in no way should the information in the book be considered legal advice to anyone on any matter for which there are legal implications. Any such matter should be specifically addressed with an attorney. The book is available for purchase at www.cviog.uga.eduor by contacting the Publications Program, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia, 201 M. Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30602; telephone 706-542-6377; fax 706-542-6239.

Last Review and Update: Apr 12, 2005