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IoT Devices and Product Liability Lawsuits

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2019 | Personal Injury


So-called “smart” devices are ubiquitous now. Smart TVs, smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, stoves, and locks are replacing their less-intellectually endowed forerunners. But what makes these devices “smart” while the others are not so smart? The answer is that they are connected to the internet and linked together on your home network. For that reason, they have been dubbed IoT (internet of things) devices. The most common IoT devices are the smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa.

In cases like this, where an innovative technology is introduced into the marketplace, it often creates several problems for the law which is slow to change. California, however, is making a move to jump ahead of the curve being the birthplace of Silicon Valley. California has introduced legislation to set minimum security standards for IoT devices. What does this mean for companies that produce these products?

Strict Liability and Product Torts 

In cases where a defective product malfunctions or otherwise causes some injury to the customer, the company that manufactured the device is strictly liable for the claim. This means that the injured customer does not need to prove negligence. However, with IoT devices, it’s not so cut and dry. There are two elements to be considered here. The first is the hardware and the second is the software.

If the hardware were to explode or catch fire, the company that produced it would still be liable and the customer would not be required to prove negligence. However, there is another consideration when dealing with such devices. That’s the security. Security breaches in IoT devices can give hackers access to your home. If you like the convenience of being able to unlock your doors with an app on your phone, then you rely on the basic security of your network. While the door lock security may be ironclad, if a hacker could breach any of the other devices, your entire network may be at risk. A hacker could break into your home, steal your stuff, and then be gone. Who is to blame then?

The courts have routinely ruled that software is not a product but a service. This means that software manufacturers are not held to the same standards as those that manufacture things. Yet IoT devices are a unique blend of both software and hardware and these devices require that both be operating fully in order to operate at all. Furthermore, if a service (like software) malfunctions and a plaintiff sustains some sort of injury to person or property, that plaintiff is required to prove negligence in order to recover damages for their claim.

The legislation hopes to resolve some of the confusion IoT devices create between varying types of torts. By setting minimum standards for security, it allows injured customers to file strict liability claims where, otherwise, they could not.

Talk to a Vero Beach Defective Products Attorney 

If you’ve been injured by a product malfunction, the Vero Beach defective product attorneys at Vocelle & Berg, LLP can help you recover damages for your injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation.



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