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Definition of Bystander

A bystander in a product liability case is the person who does not buy or use the product but can sue for damages caused by the product if they can prove the item was defective, the defect proximately caused their injury, and the defect rendered the product unreasonably dangerous. A bystander's cause of action may be based on strict tort liability. Strict liability extends the responsibility of the vendor or manufacturer to all individuals who might be injured by the product, even if they had no direct relationship to the product.

For example, in New York plaintiffs were injured in a frontal collision when their automobile was struck by defendant's oncoming automobile. The plaintiffs alleged that their injuries were caused by the defective steering mechanism in defendant's automobile, and the plaintiffs sued the defendant's manufacturer for negligence and breach of implied warranty. This and other rulings "have led to the elimination in most jurisdictions of the warranty requirement of contractual privity between the manufacturer and the party injured by the defective product, thus allowing recovery by nonpurchasing users of the product in strict liability actions." Codling v. Paglia, 32 N.Y.2d 330, 298 N.E.2d 622, 345 N.Y.S.2d 461 (1973).

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