Dateline: October, 2008, Issue 1

How do companies' general safety practices influence jurors' products liability verdicts?

The general safety practices of a company, even when unrelated to the case at hand, can influence jurors' products liability verdicts.

Resnick and colleagues (1999) gave jurors descriptions of companies and how the companies handle customer complaints.

When companies had a history of ignoring customer complaints, a product-related injury was perceived as significantly more severe.

When companies investigated customer complaints, a product-related injury was perceived as significantly less severe and a company's hazard information was perceived as more informative (even when this information was not directly provided).

In sum, companies' safety practices, whether related to the particular injury at issue or not, can influence jurors' verdicts in products liability cases.

Source Resnick, M. L., Tschen, C., & Kalsher, M. J. (1999). The effects of company image on perceptions of legal responsibility. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 43, pp. 603-606.