CACI No. 1221. Negligence - Basic Standard of Care

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2024 edition)

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1221.Negligence - Basic Standard of Care
A [designer/manufacturer/supplier/installer/repairer] is negligent if [he/
she/nonbinary pronoun/it] fails to use the amount of care in [designing/
manufacturing/inspecting/installing/repairing] the product that a
reasonably careful [designer/manufacturer/supplier/installer/ repairer]
would use in similar circumstances to avoid exposing others to a
foreseeable risk of harm.
In determining whether [name of defendant] used reasonable care, you
should balance what [name of defendant] knew or should have known
about the likelihood and severity of potential harm from the product
against the burden of taking safety measures to reduce or avoid the
New September 2003; Revised December 2012
Directions for Use
Give this instruction with CACI No. 1220, Negligence - Essential Factual Elements.
This instruction gives guidance to the jury as to how to evaluate element 2
(defendant was negligent) of CACI 1220. For an instruction on negligent failure to
warn, see CACI No. 1222, Negligence - Manufacturer or Supplier - Duty to
Warn - Essential Factual Elements.
The duty to inspect or test is included in the “knew or should have known” standard
of this instruction: “If the manufacturer designs the product safely, manufactures the
product safely, and provides an adequate warning of dangers inherent in the use of
the product, then a failure to test the product cannot, standing alone, cause any
injury. The duty to test is a subpart of the other three duties because a breach of the
duty to test cannot by itself cause any injury.” (Valentine v. Baxter Healthcare Corp.
(1999) 68 Cal.App.4th 1467, 1486 [81 Cal.Rptr.2d 252], quoting Kociemba v. G.D.
Searle & Co. (D. Minn. 1989) 707 F.Supp. 1517, 1527.)
Sources and Authority
“A manufacturer/seller of a product is under a duty to exercise reasonable care
in its design so that it can be safely used as intended by its buyer/consumer.”
(Williams v. Beechnut Nutrition Corp. (1986) 185 Cal.App.3d 135, 141 [229
Cal.Rptr. 605].) This duty ‘extends to all persons within the range of potential
danger.’ (Ibid., internal citations omitted.)
“In determining what precautions, if any, were required under the circumstances,
the likelihood of harm, and the gravity of the harm if it happens, must be
balanced against the burden of the precaution which would be effective to avoid
the harm.” (Putensen v. Clay Adams, Inc. (1970) 12 Cal.App.3d 1062,
1077-1078 [91 Cal.Rptr. 319], internal citations omitted.)
[E]xpert testimony about the safety of a product, in light of industry standards,
can also take into account other applicable and relevant circumstances. As
framed by CACI No. 1221, the negligence inquiry asks if the manufacturer
failed to use the amount of care in designing the product that a reasonably
careful designer or manufacturer would have used in similar circumstances.”
(Howard v. Omni Hotels Management Corp. (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 403, 430
[136 Cal.Rptr.3d 739], internal citations omitted.)
“[F]reedom from negligence does not inure to the manufacturer because it
purchased parts from another which were defective.” (Sheward v. Virtue (1942)
20 Cal.2d 410, 412 [126 P.2d 345].)
“The duty of a manufacturer with respect to the design of products placed on the
market is defined in the Restatement Second of Torts, section 398: ‘A
manufacturer of a chattel made under a plan or design which makes it dangerous
for the uses for which it is manufactured is subject to liability to others whom
he should expect to use the chattel or to be endangered by its probable use for
physical harm caused by his failure to exercise reasonable care in the adoption
of a safe plan or design.’ Thus, the manufacturer must use reasonable care ‘to so
design his product as to make it not accident-proof, but safe for the use for
which it was [sic] intended.’ What is ‘reasonable care,’ of course, varies with the
facts of each case, but it involves a balancing of the likelihood of harm to be
expected from a machine with a given design and the gravity of harm if it
happens against the burden of the precaution which would be effective to avoid
the harm.” (Pike v. Frank G. Hough Co. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 465, 470 [85 Cal.Rptr.
629, 467 P.2d 229], internal citation omitted.)
‘[T]he test of negligent design “involves a balancing of the likelihood of harm
to be expected from a machine with a given design and the gravity of harm if it
happens against the burden of the precaution which would be effective to avoid
the harm.” [Citation.] . . . “A manufacturer or other seller can be negligent in
marketing a product because of the way it was designed. In short, even if a
seller had done all that he could reasonably have done to warn about a risk or
hazard related to the way a product was designed, it could be that a reasonable
person would conclude that the magnitude of the reasonably foreseeable harm as
designed outweighed the utility of the product as so designed.” [Citation.] Thus,
“most of the evidentiary matters” relevant to applying the risk/benefit test in
strict liability cases “are similar to the issues typically presented in a negligent
design case.” (Chavez v. Glock, Inc. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 1283, 1305 [144
Cal.Rptr.3d 326].)
“A danger is unreasonable when it is foreseeable, and the manufacturers ability,
actual, constructive, or potential, to forestall unreasonable danger is the measure
of its duty in the design of its product.” (Balido v. Improved Machinery, Inc.
(1972) 29 Cal.App.3d 633, 640 [105 Cal.Rptr. 890], disapproved on other
grounds in Regents of University of California v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity
Co. (1978) 21 Cal.3d 624, 641-642 [147 Cal.Rptr. 486, 581 P.2d 197].)
“With respect to tests or inspections, it is well settled that where an article is
such that it is reasonably certain, if negligently manufactured or designed, to
place life and limb in peril, the manufacturer is chargeable with negligence if the
defective condition could be disclosed by reasonable inspection and tests, and
such inspection and tests are omitted.” (Putensen, supra, 12 Cal.App.3d at p.
1078, internal citations omitted.)
“[W]here an article is either inherently dangerous or reasonably certain to place
life and limb in peril when negligently made, a manufacturer owes a duty of
care to those who are the ultimate users. This duty requires reasonable care to be
exercised in assembling component parts and inspecting and testing them before
the product leaves the plant.” (Reynolds v. Natural Gas Equipment, Inc. (1960)
184 Cal.App.2d 724, 736 [7 Cal.Rptr. 879], internal citations omitted.)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1631-1643
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 2(II)-D, Strict Liability
For Defective Products, ¶¶ 2:1271, 2:1295, 2:1331, 2:1381 (The Rutter Group)
California Products Liability Actions, Ch. 2, Liability for Defective Products, § 2.21
(Matthew Bender)
19 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 190, Products Liability, § 190.190 et seq.
(Matthew Bender)

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