Along with all manner of personal injury claims, defective product claims have suffered numerous attacks by tort reformers. In 2003, Colorado’s product liability statute was amended, significantly altering product liability litigation in the state. According to the Colorado Bar Association, in recent years, Colorado courts have: (1) significantly reduced the importance and applicability of the state’s product liability statutory presumptions;(2) interpreted the "innocent seller" defense to allow claims of negligence against these sellers; and (3) limited the misuse defense to situations where misuse was the sole cause of any injuries.13 S.B. 231 moves Colorado’s product liability law in a different direction from where the courts were heading. All the changes make it more difficult for an injured consumer to successfully seek compensation.
So it is interesting that now Weld County district attorney Ken Buck, the Republican who tried to unseat Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2010 Senate race, is using theories of defective products to consider claims against Abound Solar. The solar panel manufacturer has gone from being a symbol of the national green-energy agenda to a bankrupt business that is now the target of a Weld County investigation for possible securities fraud, consumer fraud and financial misrepresentation.
Adding to the openly partisan tussle, House Republicans are clamoring for Abound-related documents from the Department of Energy because it provided the company with a $400 million loan guarantee in December 2010, $70 million of which was eventually tapped.
A report published earlier this month on right-leaning The Daily Caller website raises allegations about Abound's solar panels. According to the website, based on anonymous sources and internal documents, "the company was selling a faulty, underperforming product, and may have misled lenders at one point in order to keep itself afloat." Worse, The Daily Caller maintains, the "company knew its panels were faulty prior to obtaining taxpayer dollars."
So when a Republican DA wishes to cry foul against a manufacturer for political gains, defective product claims are legitimate. But if the typical Colorado consumer is injured, he or she faces an uphill battle to present their case to a jury.