Quirky real ideas can make great product liability hypotheticals but maybe questionable product safety features. Take Google’s patent for an adhesive coating on self-driving cars.
The company says the sticky substance would protect pedestrians—if a self-driving car hit someone, the person would stay glued to the car instead of flying off.
Hmmm? Person attached with substantial amounts of potentially harmful adhesive to outside of object moving through traffic. What could possibly go wrong? Who could be held liable if something did? What kind of warnings would be required and who would need to get them? Sounds like a law professor’s exam-question dream.
Reminds me of another glue-themed, product liability scenario, this one involving a character from the TV sitcom Seinfeld.
Remember the episode where Susan gets fatally poisoned by toxic glue after licking the envelopes that came with the cheap (ahem, cheapest) wedding invitations insisted on by George?
Was the unlucky couple warned about the glue? The woman at the stationery shop said the chosen invitations had been discontinued because of problems with the glue.
She said the glue needed too much moisture to activate its adhesive properties and so didn’t recommend them. But not a word was said about potential poisoning or other harm that could result to others. Hmmm? Warning? Or not? Seller liability? Manufacturer liability?
Too bad the episode didn’t also delve into injuries Susan might have sustained with her tongue stuck to the envelope. Of course, they probably wouldn’t have compared to the potential harm to someone stuck to the flypaper on the hood of a self-driving car.
Regardless, the TV episode may offer a cautionary tale to Google should the company follow through with its sticky-coated, self-driving car idea.
And it’s too bad Seinfeld isn’t on the air anymore: Just think about the episode where Kramer would try to give the car a spit shine.
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