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District of Columbia Product Liability Laws

As a political hotbed, Washington D.C. is awake at all hours thanks to copious amounts of coffee and sheer will power. And as the nation's legislative epicenter, D.C. has its own product liability laws for when you're harmed by a company's product in our nation's capital. Whether you were burned by the latest coffee-brewing contraption or suffered severe side-effects from a prescription drug, the District of Columbia's product liability laws provide a way to seek compensation.

The table below outlines important parts of D.C.'s product liability laws, followed by more in-depth descriptions of filing deadlines, damage limits, common defenses, and more.

Statute of Limitations 3 years (Sec. 12-301)
Discovery Rule Used Yes (Gassmann v. Eli Lilly and Co., 407 F. Supp. 2d 203 (D.C. 2005))
Statute of Repose 10 years (only applicable to deficiencies in improvements to real property) (Sec. 12-310)
Limits on Damages Economic loss rule (Capital Motor Lines v. Detroit Diesel Corp., 799 F. Supp. 2d 11 (D.D.C. 2011))
Comparative Fault Pure Contributory Negligence (Wingfield v. People's Drug Store, 379 A.2d 685 (D.C. 1994))

Time Limits

In D.C., the normal deadline for filing a product liability lawsuit is three years from the date of injury, death, or property damage caused by the product. Despite this "statute of limitations," the state's discovery rule may give you more time for certain injuries. In those cases, the limitations period doesn't begin to run until you know, or should have discovered, the injury.

Limits on Damages

D.C. is among a minority of jurisdictions that still follow the strict pure contributory negligence rule, which prohibits compensation if your own negligence contributed to causing the accident. However, this only applies to negligence claims, not ones based on strict liability. Additionally, D.C.'s economic loss rule prevents recovery in a product liability lawsuit where the only damage that occurred was to the product itself.

Theories of Liability

While most product claims in D.C. are based on strict liability, you can also bring claims based on negligence and breach of warranty. Lawsuits often include claims of design defect, manufacturing defect, or a failure to include adequate warnings on the product.

Manufacturing defect claims allege that a problem occurred during the production process, resulting in a dangerous product. In design defect claims, the flaw is inherent in the design itself. And in failure to warn cases, the plaintiff argues that the manufacturer failed to warn users of the product's dangerous conditions.


Manufacturers and distributors in a product liability suit may try to avoid blame by showing that the injury or property damage was actually caused by the consumer's misuse of the product. Similarly, they may argue that the user knew the risks inherent in the product but used it anyway.

Get a Case Review from a D.C. Attorney

D.C. law encourages the production and sale of safe products. If you've been harmed by a defective product, you may be entitled to financial compensation under a number of different legal theories. Get started before the statute of limitations runs out by receiving a case review from an experienced attorney familiar with the District of Columbia's product liability laws.

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