Citation. Anderson v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 53 Cal. 3d 987, 810 P.2d 549, 281 Cal. Rptr. 528, 91 Daily Journal DAR 6370, 91 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3997, CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P12,844 (Cal. May 30, 1991).
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Plaintiff, Anderson (Plaintiff), was allegedly injured from exposure to asbestos materials manufactured by the Defendant, Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp. (Defendant). Defendant answered by claiming it did not warn of potential dangers because there was no scientific knowledge at the time of manufacture that the product was potentially dangerous.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Knowledge or knowability is a component of strict liability for failure to warn.
The Plaintiff worked as an electrician at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for 35 years. During this work, Plaintiff allegedly was exposed to asbestos while working near others who were removing and installing insulation products aboard ships. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging that Plaintiff’s exposure to Defendant’s asbestos products resulted in his asbestosis and other lung ailments.
Is a Defendant in a products liability action based on a failure to warn of a risk of harm allowed to present state of the art evidence that the Defendant had no knowledge of the harm that could occur?
Yes. Judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
* Defendant contends that if knowledge is irrelevant in a failure to warn case, then a manufacturer’s liability is absolute. Plaintiff claims that imposing a knowledge requirement effectively adds a negligence standard to a strict liability case.
* The strict liability doctrine has incorporated several other well-settled rules from negligence law. A manufacturer defendant cannot effectively warn against something that is unknowable. Differences are still apparent between the strict liability standard applied in failure to warn cases and a negligence standard. Specifically, the reasonableness of a defendant’s failure to warn is immaterial.
The majority in this case found that a manufacturer must provide warnings if it is or should be aware of potential dangers, but to impose liability for failure to warn when the manufacturer had no way of knowing of the potential danger is unjust.