CACI 1201 Strict Liability—Manufacturing Defect—Essential Factual Elements

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

1201 Strict Liability—Manufacturing Defect—Essential Factual Elements

[Name of plaintiff] claims that the [product] contained a manufacturing defect. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1.That [name of defendant] [manufactured/distributed/sold] the [product];

2.That the [product] contained a manufacturing defect when it left [name of defendant]’s possession;

3.That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

4.That the [product]’s defect was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

New September 2003; Revised April 2009, December 2009, June 2011, May 2020

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Directions for Use

To make a prima facie case, the plaintiff has the initial burden of producing evidence that the plaintiff was injured while the product was being used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. If this prima facie burden is met, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to prove that the plaintiff’s injury resulted from a misuse of the product. (See Perez v. VAS S.p.A. (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 658, 678 [115 Cal.Rptr.3d 590] [risk-benefit design defect case]; Cronin v. J.B.E. Olson Corp. (1972) 8 Cal.3d 121, 125–126 [104 Cal.Rptr. 433, 501 P.2d 1153] [product misuse asserted as a defense to manufacturing defect]; see also CACI No. 1245, Affirmative Defense—Product Misuse or Modification.) Product misuse is a complete defense to strict products liability if the defendant proves that an unforeseeable abuse or alteration of the product after it left the manufacturer’s hands was the sole cause of the plaintiff’s injury. (Campbell v. Southern Pacific Co. (1978) 22 Cal.3d 51, 56 [148 Cal.Rptr. 596, 583 P.2d 121]; see CACI No. 1245.) Misuse or modification that was a substantial factor in, but not the sole cause of, plaintiff’s harm may also be considered in determining the comparative fault of the plaintiff or of third persons. See CACI No. 1207A, Strict Liability—Comparative Fault of Plaintiff, and CACI No. 1207B, Strict Liability—Comparative Fault of Third Person.

Sources and Authority

“[T]he term defect as utilized in the strict liability context is neither self-defining nor susceptible to a single definition applicable in all contexts.” (Johnson v. United States Steel Corp. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 22, 31 [192 Cal.Rptr.3d 158].)

“A manufacturing defect occurs when an item is manufactured in a substandard condition.” (Gonzalez v. Autoliv ASP, Inc. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 780, 792 [64 Cal.Rptr.3d 908].)

“A product has a manufacturing defect if it differs from the manufacturer’s intended result or from other ostensibly identical units of the same product line. In other words, a product has a manufacturing defect if the product as manufactured does not conform to the manufacturer’s design.” (Garrett v. Howmedica Osteonics Corp. (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 173, 190 [153 Cal.Rptr.3d 693].)

“ ‘Regardless of the theory which liability is predicated upon … it is obvious that to hold a producer, manufacturer, or seller liable for injury caused by a particular product, there must first be proof that the defendant produced, manufactured, sold, or was in some way responsible for the product … .’ ” (Garcia v. Joseph Vince Co. (1978) 84 Cal.App.3d 868, 874 [148 Cal.Rptr. 843], internal citation omitted.)

“[W]here a plaintiff alleges a product is defective, proof that the product has malfunctioned is essential to establish liability for an injury caused by the defect.” (Khan v. Shiley Inc. (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 848, 855 [266 Cal.Rptr. 106], original italics.)

“We think that a requirement that a plaintiff also prove that the defect made the product ‘unreasonably dangerous’ places upon him a significantly increased burden and represents a step backward in the area pioneered by this court.” (Cronin, supra, 8 Cal.3d at pp. 134–135.)

“[T]he policy underlying the doctrine of strict liability compels the conclusion that recovery should not be limited to cases involving latent defects.” (Luque v. McLean (1972) 8 Cal.3d 136, 145 [104 Cal.Rptr. 443, 501 P.2d 1163].)

“A manufacturer is liable only when a defect in its product was a legal cause of injury. A tort is a legal cause of injury only when it is a substantial factor in producing the injury.” (Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 572 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 607, 882 P.2d 298], internal citations omitted.)

“[Plaintiff] argues whether the alleged defects in the cup were a cause of her injuries is a question for the jury. ‘ “Ordinarily, proximate cause is a question of fact which cannot be decided as a matter of law. … Nevertheless, where the facts are such that the only reasonable conclusion is an absence of causation, the question is one of law, not of fact.” ’ ” (Shih v. Starbucks Corp. (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 1063, 1071 [267 Cal.Rptr.3d 919], internal citation omitted.)

“[S]trict liability should not be imposed upon a manufacturer when injury results from a use of its product that is not reasonably foreseeable.” (Cronin, supra, 8 Cal.3d at p. 126.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, § 1591
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 2(II)-D, Strict Liability For Defective Products, ¶¶ 2:1215, 2:1216 (The Rutter Group)
California Products Liability Actions, Ch. 2, Liability for Defective Products, § 2.11, Ch. 7, Proof, § 7.06 (Matthew Bender)
40 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 460, Products Liability, §§ 460.11, 460.30 (Matthew Bender)
19 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 190, Products Liability, § 190.140 (Matthew Bender)