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A number of enterprising law firms have utilized 3D technology in their products liability practice. These machines bring a new twist to the term "manufacturing evidence."
Products Liability 101
In the world of products liability law, it's bad news for companies to manufacture products that are "unreasonably dangerous." Defects are either actual physical flaws in the product like a missing screw, or a defective design like a car with no seat belts, or a defective label that failed to warn of the dangers. Considering this world, it's easy to see how 3D printing might find a purpose for litigators.
How an Arizona Firm Uses 3D Printing
As noted by Above the Law's Niki Black, the large Arizona firm Fennemore Craig has used 3D printing technology to create "improved prototypes" of products that are allegedly defective in design. This operation involves hiring a team of engineers to improve upon the existing model. The prototype can then be presented to opposing counsel, or if required, be admitted to the body of evidence if a case should reach trial.
Fennemore Craig's use of 3D printing technology for products liability is not unique in the industry. Law firms have already contracted out the service to outside companies and make use of their products. One example is Lawyer Made, a San Rafael firm.
Potential Savings in Money and Time
The hiring of engineers to build a safer model at marginal cost to the consumer sounds expensive, and it is. But the strategy is highly effective for keeping cases out of court, or at least that's the thought. Although, it may be the case that having a 3D printer on site may not be the most cost effective option for many firms.
Editor's Note, October 26, 2015: This post has been updated to attribute Above the Law's Niki Black with the initial publication concerning the use of 3D printing in Biglaw.