24 Cal. 2d 453 (1944).

A seminal opinion in the area of products liability.

The plaintiff, a waitress, was injured when a soft drink bottle manufactured under the auspices of the defendant exploded in her hands as she was trying to open it.

The majority of the California Supreme Court treated the case as one of negligence and applied res ipsa loquitur doctrine to find the defendant liable.

The case, however, became known for Judge Roger Traynor’s concurring opinion, which essentially set the groundwork  for strict products liability in California.  Justice Traynor famously noted in his concurring opinion that a manufacturer should be held liable in tort, without consideration of fault, for placing in the market a defecting product that causes personal injury.  He explained:

I concur in the judgment, but I believe the manufacturer’s negligence should no longer be singled out as the basis of a plaintiffs right to recover in cases like the present one. In my opinion it should now be recognized that a manufacturer incurs an absolute liability when an article that he has placed on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection, proves to have a defect that causes injury to human beings . . . In these cases the source of the manufacturer’s liability was his negligence in the manufacturing process or in the inspection of component parts supplied by others. Even if there is no negligence, however, public policy demands that responsibility be fixed wherever it will most effectively reduce the hazards to life and health inherent in defective products that reach the market. It is evident that the manufacturer can anticipate some hazards and guard against the recurrence of others, as the public cannot. Those who suffer injury from defective products are unprepared to meet its consequences. The cost of an injury and the loss of time or health may be an overwhelming misfortune to the person injured, and a needless one, for the risk of injury can be insured by the manufacturer and distributed among the public as a cost of doing business. It is to the public interest to discourage the marketing of products having defects that are a menace to the public. If such products nevertheless find their way into the market it is to the public interest to place the responsibility for whatever injury they may cause upon the manufacturer, who, even if he is not negligent in the manufacture of the product, is responsible for its reaching the market. However intermittently such injuries may occur and however haphazardly they may strike, the risk of their occurrence is a constant risk and a general one. Against such a risk there should be general and constant protection and the manufacturer is best situated to afford such protection.

Id. at 461-462.

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