CACI No. 1200. Strict Liability - Essential Factual Elements

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2020 edition)

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1200.Strict Liability - Essential Factual Elements
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] was harmed by
a product [distributed/manufactured/sold] by [name of defendant] that:
[contained a manufacturing defect;] [or]
[was defectively designed;] [or]
[did not include sufficient [instructions] [or] [warning of potential
safety hazards].]
New September 2003
Sources and Authority
• “Products liability is the name currently given to the area of the law involving
the liability of those who supply goods or products for the use of others to
purchasers, users, and bystanders for losses of various kinds resulting from so-
called defects in those products.” (Johnson v. United States Steel Corp. (2015)
240 Cal.App.4th 22, 30 [192 Cal.Rptr.3d 158].)
• “A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer is liable in tort if a defect in the
manufacture or design of its product causes injury while the product is being
used in a reasonably foreseeable way.” (Soule v. GM Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548,
560 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 607, 882 P.2d 298], internal citations omitted.)
• “Strict liability has been invoked for three types of defects - manufacturing
defects, design defects, and ‘warning defects,’ i.e., inadequate warnings or
failures to warn.” (Anderson v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. (1991) 53 Cal.3d
987, 995 [281 Cal.Rptr. 528, 810 P.2d 549].)
• “Under the Restatement [Rest.3d Torts, Products Liability, § 2], a product is
defective if it: ‘(a) contains a manufacturing defect when the product departs
from its intended design even though all possible care was exercised in the
preparation and marketing of the product; [¶] (b) is defective in design when the
foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or
avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design by the seller or other
distributor, or a predecessor in the commercial chain of distribution, and the
omission of the alternative design renders the product not reasonably safe; [¶] (c)
is defective because of inadequate instructions or warnings when the foreseeable
risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the
provision of reasonable instructions or warnings by the seller or other distributor,
or a predecessor in the commercial chain of distribution, and the omission of the
instructions or warnings renders the product not reasonably safe.’ ” (Brady v.
Calsol, Inc. (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 1212, 1218-1219 [194 Cal.Rptr.3d 243].)
• “A manufacturer is strictly liable in tort when an article he places on the market,
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knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a
defect that causes injury to a human being. . . . The purpose of such liability is
to insure that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by
the manufacturers that put such products on the market rather than by the injured
persons who are powerless to protect themselves.” (Greenman v. Yuba Power
Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal.2d 57, 62-63 [27 Cal.Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897].)
• “[S]trict products liability causes of action need not be pled in terms of classic
negligence elements (duty, breach, causation and damages).” (Elsheref v. Applied
Materials, Inc. (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 451, 464 [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 257].)
• “[S]trict liability has never been, and is not now, absolute liability. As has been
repeatedly expressed, under strict liability the manufacturer does not thereby
become the insurer of the safety of the product’s user.” (Sanchez v. Hitachi Koki,
Co. (2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 948, 956 [158 Cal.Rptr.3d 907].)
• “Beyond manufacturers, anyone identifiable as ‘an integral part of the overall
producing and marketing enterprise’ is subject to strict liability.” (Arriaga v.
CitiCapital Commercial Corp. (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1527, 1534 [85
Cal.Rptr.3d 143].)
• “Generally, the imposition of strict liability hinges on the extent to which a party
was ‘responsible for placing products in the stream of commerce.’ When the
purchase of a product ‘is the primary objective or essence of the transaction,
strict liability applies even to those who are mere conduits in distributing the
product to the consumer.’ In contrast, the doctrine of strict liability is ordinarily
inapplicable to transactions ‘whose primary objective is obtaining services,’ and
to transactions in which the ‘service aspect predominates and any product sale is
merely incidental to the provision of the service.’ Thus, ‘[i]n a given transaction
involving both products and services, liability will often depend upon the
defendant’s role.’ ” (Hernandezcueva v. E.F. Brady Co., Inc. (2015) 243
Cal.App.4th 249, 258 [196 Cal.Rptr.3d 594], internal citations omitted.)
• “[U]nder the stream-of-commerce approach to strict liability[,] no precise legal
relationship to the member of the enterprise causing the defect to be
manufactured or to the member most closely connected with the customer is
required before the courts will impose strict liability. It is the defendant’s
participatory connection, for his personal profit or other benefit, with the injury-
producing product and with the enterprise that created consumer demand for and
reliance upon the product (and not the defendant’s legal relationship (such as
agency) with the manufacturer or other entities involved in the manufacturing-
marketing system) which calls for imposition of strict liability.”
(Hernandezcueva, supra, 243 Cal.App.4th at pp. 257-258.)
• “ ‘[S]trict liability is not imposed even if the defendant is technically a “link in
the chain” in getting the product to the consumer market if the judicially
perceived policy considerations are not satisfied. Thus, a defendant will not be
held strictly liable unless doing so will enhance product safety, maximize
protection to the injured plaintiff, and apportion costs among the defendants.
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[Citations.]’ ” (Hernandezcueva, supra, 234 Cal.App.4th at p. 258.)
• “California cases have found that a defendant involved in the
marketing/distribution process may be held strictly liable ‘if three factors are
present: (1) the defendant received a direct financial benefit from its activities
and from the sale of the product; (2) the defendant’s role was integral to the
business enterprise such that the defendant’s conduct was a necessary factor in
bringing the product to the initial consumer market; and (3) the defendant had
control over, or a substantial ability to influence, the manufacturing or
distribution process. [Citation.]’ . . . ‘The application of strict liability in any
particular factual setting is determined largely by the policies that underlie the
doctrine.’ ” (Petitpas v. Ford Motor Co. (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 261, 270 [220
Cal.Rptr.3d 185], internal citation omitted.)
• “The component parts doctrine provides that the manufacturer of a component
part is not liable for injuries caused by the finished product into which the
component has been incorporated unless the component itself was defective and
caused harm.” (O’Neil v. Crane Co. (2012) 53 Cal.4th 335, 355 [135 Cal.Rptr.3d
288, 266 P.3d 987].)
• “The only exceptions to this rule [that a product manufacturer generally may not
be held strictly liable for harm caused by another manufacturer’s product] arise
when the defendant bears some direct responsibility for the harm, either because
the defendant’s own product contributed substantially to the harm, or because the
defendant participated substantially in creating a harmful combined use of the
products.” (O’Neil, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 362, internal citation omitted.)
• “[T]o hold a defendant strictly liable under a marketing/distribution theory, the
plaintiff must demonstrate that: ‘(1) the defendant received a direct financial
benefit from its activities and from the sale of the product; (2) the defendant’s
role was integral to the business enterprise such that the defendant’s conduct was
a necessary factor in bringing the product to the initial consumer market; and (3)
the defendant had control over, or a substantial ability to influence, the
manufacturing or distribution process.’ ” (Arriaga, supra, 167 Cal.App.4th at p.
1535.)
• “[T]he doctrine of strict liability may not be restricted on a theory of privity of
contract. Since the doctrine applies even where the manufacturer has attempted
to limit liability, they further make it clear that the doctrine may not be limited
on the theory that no representation of safety is made to the bystander. [¶¶] If
anything, bystanders should be entitled to greater protection than the consumer
or user where injury to bystanders from the defect is reasonably foreseeable.
Consumers and users, at least, have the opportunity to inspect for defects and to
limit their purchases to articles manufactured by reputable manufacturers and
sold by reputable retailers, whereas the bystander ordinarily has no such
opportunities. In short, the bystander is in greater need of protection from
defective products which are dangerous, and if any distinction should be made
between bystanders and users, it should be made, contrary to the position of
defendants, to extend greater liability in favor of the bystanders.” (Elmore v.
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American Motors Corp. (1969) 70 Cal.2d 578, 586 [75 Cal.Rptr. 652, 451 P.2d
84].)
• “Engineers who do not participate in bringing a product to market and simply
design a product are not subject to strict products liability.” (Romine v. Johnson
Controls, Inc. (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 990, 1008 [169 Cal.Rptr.3d 208].)
• “As a provider of services rather than a seller of a product, the hospital is not
subject to strict liability for a defective product provided to the patient during
the course of his or her treatment.” (Bigler-Engler v. Breg, Inc. (2017) 7
Cal.App.5th 276, 316 [213 Cal.Rptr.3d 82] [however, causes of action based in
negligence are not affected].)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1591-1601
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 2(II)-D, Strict Liability
For Defective Products, ¶¶ 2:1207, 2:1215 (The Rutter Group)
California Products Liability Actions, Ch. 2, Liability for Defective Products, § 2.10
(Matthew Bender)
40 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 460, Products Liability, § 460.11
(Matthew Bender)
19 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 190, Products Liability, § 190.20 et seq.
(Matthew Bender)
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