California’s Product Liability Laws Explained

California is widely known as the mecca for tech, from self-driving vehicles to computers to drones. However, would do you do when your product backfires on you? Or if you were prescribed drugs that resulted in your child being born with a disability? If something you bought caused you pain, knowing California’s product liability laws will prove crucial in getting your life back on track.

Time Constraints

If a product burned, cut or physically injured you, then you’re permitted to submit a personal injury claim within two years of discovering your injury was caused by some product. If the product instead caused your property damage such as fire damage or creating a hole in your wall, then you can submit a property damage claim within three years of the discovery that your product was responsible. California does not follow a statute of repose, but it only applies if the product is an “improvement on real property” such as electrical work or track lighting.

Limits on Damages

California’s courts follow the pure comparative fault rule. Which means that the court determines the allocation of compensation based on your percentage of fault. For example, if a product exploded in your basement and caused $10,000 in damage to your house, and the court determines that you were 60% at fault for the incident, you can only recover $4,000 from the product owner or manufacturer. California also applies the economic loss guideline. Which prevents recovery of solely financial losses, like lost profits.

Basis for Liability

There are three primary categories of product liability: defective design, manufacturing defect, or lack of adequate warnings or instructions.

Defective Design:

With faulty design claims, California’s courts apply two tests to determine liability: the risk/benefit test, and the consumer expectations test. The course uses the risk/benefit test if technical problems are found in the design, such as cost, practicality, risk, or benefit. A product doesn’t pass this test if there is a risk of danger found in the product’s design that outweighs the interests of the design. The consumer expectations test is used solely when professional opinion isn’t required to show that the product fails to work as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when the product is used in an expected or reasonable way.

Manufacturing Defect:

If you’re seeking a claim that states the product that caused your injuries had a manufacturer defect despite the company has used the most caution at every stage of the process, your lawyer will instead file a claim of strict liability for a manufacturing defect.

Lack of Adequate Warning or Instructions:

On rare occasions, a product may still be dangerous despite if it was designed property and manufactured as intended. For instance, if a lawn mower is known to go in reverse unexpectedly, then the manufacturer is required to put warnings on the product.