Product Liability Class Actions: Ontario Court Rules On The Duties Owed By Manufacturers Of Inherently Dangerous Products

Published date08 April 2021
Subject MatterConsumer Protection, Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Product Liability & Safety, Class Actions, Trials & Appeals & Compensation, Professional Negligence
Law FirmStikeman Elliott LLP
AuthorMr Jordan Wajs

In Price v. Smith & Wesson, 2021 ONSC 1114 ("Price") victims of the 2018 Danforth Avenue mass shooting in Toronto successfully defended their proposed $150 million negligent design class action against a handgun manufacturer's motion to strike.

Key Take-Aways

  • For the first time in Canada, a court has recognized a duty of care between a firearms manufacturer and the victims of a shooting.
  • Manufacturers of products that are dangerous in themselves owe a duty of care to those who will come into proximity of those products (and not just the purchasers and/or intended users) and should give careful consideration to ensure that they are taking reasonable precautions.
  • Plaintiffs may be able to sustain claims for negligent design of a product where they identify specific alleged design defects; a substantial likelihood of harm which could be caused by those defects; and that there were safer and economically feasible ways of manufacturing the product.


The Plaintiffs in Price were victims and the parents of victims of a tragic mass shooting ("Danforth Shooting"), which occurred on the Danforth Avenue in Toronto on July 22, 2018. The Defendant manufactured the stolen semi-automatic handgun ("Handgun"), which was used by the perpetrator of the Danforth Shooting.

The Plaintiffs commenced a proposed class action against the Defendant to hold the Defendant liable for the injuries suffered in the Danforth Shooting.

The Plaintiffs' central allegation in this case was negligence. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendant, as the designer, manufacturer and distributor of a product intended to be used as a weapon, owed a duty of care to persons who would come into proximity with that product to ensure that the weapon included safety mechanisms sufficient to deter significant and foreseeable harm. The Plaintiffs further alleged that, although the Defendant both developed and patented technology ("Safety Mechanisms") that could deter unauthorized individuals from using its weapons, it unreasonably elected not to incorporate the Safety Mechanisms into the design of the Handgun. On this basis, the Plaintiffs claimed that the harm inflicted by the Handgun was preventable, and that the Defendant should be held liable as a result.

The Plaintiffs' claim is groundbreaking in Canada, but mirrors a long line of cases brought by victims of shootings against firearms manufacturers in the United States. The prevailing practice among firearms manufacturers in the U.S. has...

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