“A design defect exists when the product is built in accordance with its intended specifications, but the design itself is inherently defective.” Barker v. Lull Engineering Co., 20 Cal. 3d 413, 439 (1978). California has two alternative sets of elements for establishing Strict Products Liability – Design Defect:
1. Defendant manufactured/distributed/sold the product;
2. That the product did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected it to perform when used or misused in an intended or reasonably foreseeable way;
3. Plaintiff was harmed; and
4. The product’s failure to perform safely was a substantial factor in causing Plaintiff’s harm.
(The “Consumer Expectation Test”)
1. That the defendant manufactured/distributed/sold the product;
2. That the plaintiff was harmed ; and
3. That the product’s design was a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff; and
4. the benefits of the product’s design do not outweigh the risks of the design.
This last factor requires considering, among others, the following elements (as relevant to the specific case):
The gravity of the potential harm resulting from the use of the product;
(b) The likelihood that this harm would occur;
(c) The feasibility of an alternative safer design at the time of manufacture;
(d) The cost of an alternative design; and
(e) The disadvantages of an alternative design.
(The “Risk Benefit Test”)
Both tests can be alleged in the alternative. See Barker v. Lull Engineering Co., 20 Cal. 3d 413, 432 (1978). The “Risk Benefit Test” is not a defense to the “Consumer Expectation Test.” See Chavez v. Glock, Inc., 207 Cal.App.4th 1283, 1303 (2012).
“[A] defendant involved in the marketing/distribution process has been 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.”
Bay Summit Community Ass’n v. Shell Oil Co., 51 Cal. App. 4th 762, 773 (1996).
CALIFORNIA STATE COURTS
California Supreme Court: Soule v. Gen. Motors Corp., 8 Cal. 4th 548, 566-71 (1994); Barker v. Lull Engineering Co., 20 Cal. 3d 413, 429-32 (1978) (identifying two tests for strict liability for design defect).
California 1st Dist.: Bailey v. Safeway, Inc., 199 Cal. App. 4th 206, 214 (2011); Jones v. John Crane, Inc., 132 Cal. App. 4th 990, 1001-02 (2005).
California 2d Dist.: Garrett v. Howmedica Osteonics Corp., 214 Cal. App. 4th 173, 182 (2013); Chavez v. Glock, Inc., 207 Cal. App. 4th 1283, 1304-05 (2012).
California 3d Dist.: Collins v. Navistar, Inc., 214 Cal. App. 4th 1486, 1500-01 (2013).
California 4th Dist.: Howard v. Omni Hotels Mgmt. Corp., 203 Cal. App. 4th 403, 424 (2012).
California 5th Dist.: Willard v. Caterpillar, Inc., 40 Cal. App. 4th 892, 918 (1995); Brooks v. Eugene Burger Management Corp., 215 Cal. App. 3d 1611, 1625-26 (1989).
California 6th Dist.: West v. Johnson & Johnson Prods., Inc., 174 Cal. App. 3d 831, 856 & 863 n.30 (1985); Akers v. Kelley Co., 173 Cal. App. 3d 633, 648 n.8 (1985), disapproved on other grounds at People v. Nesler, 16 Cal. 4th 561, 582 n.5 (1997).
CALIFORNIA FEDERAL COURT
United States Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit: Torres v. Taser Int’l, Inc., 277 Fed. Appx. 684, 685-86 (9th Cir. 2008).
Central District: Michery v. Ford Motor Co., No. CV 12-04957 RSWL (FFMx), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161445, at *11-13 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 12, 2013).
Eastern District: Waldo v. Eli Lilly & Co., No. CIV. S-13-0789 LKK/EFB, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145772, at *7-8 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 8, 2013); Crayton v. Rochester Med. Corp., No. 1:07-CV-1318 OWW GSA, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11112, at *36-37 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2011).
Northern District: Monigan v. National Presto Indus., No. C 12-3698 SI, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177069, at *13-17 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2013); Bookhamer v. Sunbeam Prods., Inc., 913 F. Supp. 2d 809, 815 (N.D. Cal. 2012).
Southern District: Cruz v. Sears, Sears’ Craftsman Tools, No. 12-CV-00623-H (BGS), 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99817, at *5-6 (S.D. Cal. July 18, 2012).