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Title 16: Commercial Practices
§1116.8 Determination of particular model.
(a) The obligation rests with the manufacturer of a product to determine whether a reasonable basis exists to conclude that a product that is the subject of a settled or adjudicated lawsuit is sufficiently different from other similar products to be regarded as a “particular model” under section 37 because it is “distinctive.” To determine whether a product is “distinctive”, the proper inquiry should be directed toward the degree to which a product differs from other comparable products in one or more of the characteristics enumerated in section 37(e)(2) and §1116.2(c) of this part. A product is “distinctive” if, after an analysis of information relating to one or more of the statutory characteristics, a manufacturer, acting in accordance with the customs and practices of the trade of which it is a member, could reasonably conclude that the difference between that product and other items of the same product class manufactured or imported by the same manufacturer is substantial and material. Information relevant to the determination of whether a product is a “particular model” includes:
(1) The description of the features and uses of the products in question in written material such as instruction manuals, description brochures, marketing or promotional programs, reports of certification of products, specification sheets, and product drawings.
(2) The differences or similarities between products in their observable physical characteristics and in components or features that are not readily observable and that are incorporated in those products for safety-related purposes;
(3) The customs and practices of the trade of which the manufacturer is a member in marketing, designating, or evaluating similar products.
(4) Information on how consumers use the products and on consumer need or demand for different products, such as products of different size. In analyzing whether products are different models, differences in size or calibration afford the basis for distinguishing between products only if those differences make the products distinctive in functional design or function.
(5) The history of the manufacturer's model identification and marketing of the products in question;
(6) Whether variations between products relate solely to appearance, ornamentation, color, or other cosmetic features; such variations are not ordinarily sufficient to differentiate between models.
(7) Whether component parts used in a product are interchangeable with or perform substantially the same function as comparable components in other units; if they are, the use of such components does not afford a basis for distinguishing between models.
(8) Retail price. Substantial variations in price arising directly from the characteristics enumerated in section 37(e)(2) for evaluating product models may be evidence that products are different models because their differences are distinctive. Price variations imposed to accommodate different markets or vendors are not sufficient to draw such a distinction.
(9) Manufacturer's designation, model number, or private label designation. These factors are not controlling in identifying “particular models”.
(10) Expert evaluation of the characteristics of the products in question, and surveys of consumer users or a manufacturer's retail customers.
(b) The definition of “consumer product” expressly applies to components of consumer products. Should a component manufacturer be joined in a civil action against a manufacturer of a consumer product, the section 37 reporting requirements may apply to that manufacturer after a combination of three judgments or settlements involving the same component model during a two year period, even though the manufacturer of the finished product is exempt from such reporting because the lawsuits do not involve the same particular model of the finished consumer product. The same proposition holds true for common components used in different consumer products. If the manufacturer of such a component is a defendant in three suits and the requisite statutory criteria are met, the reporting obligations apply.
(c) Section 37 expressly defines the reporting obligation in terms of the particular model of a product rather than the manner in which a product was involved in an accident. Accordingly, even if the characteristic of a product that caused or resulted in the deaths of grievous injuries alleged in three or more civil actions is the same in all of the suits, the requirement to report under section 37 would arise only if the same particular model was involved in at least three of the suits. However, the existence of such a pattern would strongly suggest that the obligation to file a report under section 15(b) (2) or (3) (15 U.S.C. 2064(b) (2) or (3)) exists because the information reasonably supports the conclusion that the product contains a defect that could present a substantial risk of injury to the public or creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.
(d) Section 37 does not require that the same category of injury be involved in multiple lawsuits for the reporting obligation to arise. As long as a particular model of a consumer product is the subject of at least three civil actions that are settled or adjudicated in favor of the plaintiff in one of the statutory two year periods, the manufacturer must report, even though the alleged category of injury and the alleged causal relationship of the product to the injury in each suit may differ.