California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)
1207A. Strict Liability—Comparative Fault of Plaintiff
[Name of defendant] claims that [name of plaintiff]’s own negligence contributed to [his/her] harm. To succeed on this claim, [name of defendant] must prove both of the following:
1. [insert one or more of the following:]
[That [name of plaintiff] negligently [used/misused/modified] the [product];] [or]
[That [name of plaintiff] was [otherwise] negligent;]
2. That this negligence was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.
If [name of defendant] proves the above, [name of plaintiff]’s damages are reduced by your determination of the percentage of [name of plaintiff]’s responsibility. I will calculate the actual reduction.
Directions for Use
Give this instruction if the defendant alleges that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to his or her harm. See also CACI No. 405, Comparative Fault of Plaintiff. For an instruction on the comparative fault of a third person, see CACI No. 1207B, Strict Liability—Comparative Fault of Third Person.
Subsequent misuse or modification may be considered in determining comparative fault if it was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injury. (See Torres v. Xomox Corp. (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1, 17 [56 Cal.Rptr.2d 455].) Unforeseeable misuse or modification can be a complete defense if it is the sole cause of the plaintiff’s harm. (See Campbell v. Southern Pacific Co. (1978) 22 Cal.3d 51, 56 [148 Cal.Rptr. 596, 583 P.2d 121].) See also CACI No. 1245, Affırmative Defense—Product Misuse or Modification.
Sources and Authority
- In Daly v. General Motors Corp. (1978) 20 Cal.3d 725, 737 [144 Cal.Rptr. 380, 575 P.2d 1162], the California Supreme Court held that comparative fault applies to strict products liability actions. The court explained: “[W]e do not permit plaintiff’s own conduct relative to the product to escape unexamined, and as to that share of plaintiff’s damages which flows from his own fault we discern no reason of policy why it should, following Li, be borne by others.”
- “[A] petitioner’s recovery may accordingly be reduced, but not barred, where his lack of reasonable care is shown to have contributed to his injury.” (Bradfield v. Trans World Airlines, Inc. (1979) 88 Cal.App.3d 681, 686 [152 Cal.Rptr. 172].)
- “The record does not support [defendant]’s assertion that modification of the bracket was the sole cause of the accident. The record does indicate that if the bracket had not been modified there would have been no need to remove it to reach the flange bolts, and thus the modification was one apparent cause of [plaintiff]’s death. However, a number of other causes, or potential causes, were established, including: [plaintiff]’s failure to wear protective clothing; [third party]’s failure to furnish the correct replacement bracket for the valve; [third party]’s failure to furnish [employer] with all of the literature it received from [defendant]; and negligence on the part of [employer] independent of its modification of the valve, including violations of various federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations governing equipment and training in connection with the accident.” (Torres, supra, 49 Cal.App.4th at p. 17.)
Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, § 1542
California Products Liability Actions, Ch. 8, Defenses, §§ 8.03, 8.04 (Matthew Bender)
40 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 460, Products Liability, §§ 460.53, 460.182 (Matthew Bender)
19 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 190, Products Liability, § 190.253 (Matthew Bender)