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Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc


    Citation. Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc., 59 Cal. 2d 57, 377 P.2d 897, 27 Cal. Rptr. 697, 1963 Cal. LEXIS 140, 13 A.L.R.3d 1049 (Cal. 1963).

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, William Greenman (Plaintiff), was injured when his Shopsmith combination power tool threw a piece of wood, striking him in the head. Plaintiff sued and the Defendant, Yuba Power Products, Inc. (Defendant) the manufacturer, defended claiming that Plaintiff’s breach of warranty claim was barred due to his failure to give timely notice.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Individuals injured by products with design or manufacturing defects may bring suit under strict liability regardless of a failure to give timely notice to the manufacturer for a breach of warranty.

    Facts. The Plaintiff saw a Shopsmith combination power tool demonstrated by a retailer and he studied a brochure prepared by the manufacturer. His wife bought him a Shopsmith, and Plaintiff bought necessary attachments to use the Shopsmith as a lathe. After working with the lathe several times without difficulty, it suddenly threw the piece of wood he was working with out of the machine, striking him in the head inflicting serious injuries. Approximately ten and one-half months later, Plaintiff gave the retailer and the manufacturer written notice of claimed breaches of warranties and filed a complaint alleging said breaches and negligence.

    Issue. Is Plaintiff’s action based on representations contained in the brochure barred against the manufacturer due to a failure to give timely notice?

    Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
    * Plaintiff introduced substantial evidence from which to conclude that his injuries were the result of defective design and construction of the Shopsmith. However, the Defendant contends that Plaintiff did not give it notice of a breach of warranty within a reasonable time. The Civil Code provides that failure of the buyer to give the seller notice of a breach of warranty within a reasonable time precludes liability [Civ.Code Section: 1769]. However, this notice requirement is inappropriate for this Court to adopt in an action by injured consumers against manufacturers with whom they have not dealt. Because the injured party is generally unaware of the business practice justifying the rule, it would simply be an unfair “booby-trap” for the unwary.
    * Even if Plaintiff’s claim for breach of warranty were barred, the imposition of strict liability is appropriate in this case. From the evidence, it can be shown (i) that the manufacturer placed a product on the market; (ii) knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects; (iii) that proved to have a defect and (iv) that caused an injury. To establish liability, it is sufficient that Plaintiff was injured while using the Shopsmith in a way it was intended to be used, as a result of a defect in design and manufacture.

    Discussion. The Court in this case finds that an apparently applicable statute will not bar recovery. Many of the products liability decisions tend to insure the protection of the consumer over that of manufacturers.



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