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2007 Legal Issues Forum Focuses on Tort Liability

New York, Oct 24, 2007

On October 17, more than sixty legal experts and representatives of the standards and conformity assessment community came together for the 2007 Legal Issues Forum: Tort Liability in the Standards World.

Held in Washington, DC, as part of the World Standards Week 2007 series of events, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) convened the forum to examine the spectrum of tort liability issues that can arise throughout the voluntary standards development process.

“Legal issues relating to negligence and product safety arise in all aspects of the standards development and conformity assessment process,” said Patricia Griffin, vice president and general counsel of ANSI. “The narrow focus of this year’s conference made it a must-attend event for anyone interested in learning how to protect his or her organization from tort liability.”

During the opening panel, “The Legal Landscape,” attorneys discussed the liability-related risks involved in standards-setting and product certification activities. Several strategies were suggested for avoiding tort liability, including: understanding the scope of the standard or compliance program, making use of disclaimers to spell out the organization’s involvement, examining insurance policies for coverage of standards developing activities, and documenting standards-related contact with government agencies.

Panel two, “Strategic Use of Standards in Litigation,” presented attendees with case studies from the perspectives of a plaintiff’s lawyer and a defendant’s lawyer. Drawing from experience in specific, ongoing lawsuits, the plaintiff’s lawyer discussed how a plaintiff uses standards to determine what are good versus what are frivolous claims. On the flip side, the defendant’s lawyer provided practical guidance on how to defend against such allegations, whether they are cast as negligent development, failure to warn, or conspiracy/fraud claims.

The final panel, “Writing Safety Standards Today,” focused on the efforts underway within the ANSI-Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP). Examining how liability concerns impact homeland security standards development, participants focused their attention on the recently enacted SAFETY Act. By providing liability protections for providers of qualified products or services, the Act encourages the development and deployment of new and innovative anti-terrorism technologies. The Department of Homeland Security is sponsoring a SAFETY Act Workshop on November 16, 2007, for industry groups, standards developing organizations, government employees, and any other interested stakeholders who wish to learn more about the Act. To register, please visit the event website.

For more information or to view presentations given during Tort Liability in the Standards World, please visit the proceedings page. Questions and comments may be directed to Patricia Griffin, ANSI vice president and general counsel (212.642.4954;

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