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Anderson v. Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp.

Citation. 810 P.2d 549 (Cal. 1991) (In Bank)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The plaintiff got mesothelioma from working with asbestos products manufactured by the defendant.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

There are two tests for identifying a design defect:

  1. Whether the product performed as safely and in the manner a consumer would expect it to when used for its intended purpose and,
  2. Whether the benefits of the design outweighed the risk of danger in the design.


Defendants made products containing asbestos during a time asbestos was allegedly not known to science to be dangerous.  Plaintiff interacted with those products, sustained injuries, and brought suit.


Is the defendant subject to strict liability?


The defendant should not be subject to strict liability if the dangers were not known to science.


Justice Broussard, J.

The justice concurs in the opinion of the majority, but writes separately to emphasize the narrowness of the holding.  He opines that this rule is only applicable to instances where the risk that was not warned of was entirely unknowable.


The court finds for the defendant.  In coming to this conclusion, the court reasons that it would be unreasonable to expect a company to warn of a danger that is not yet known to be a danger.  If the scientific body of knowledge has not yet discovered something, how could a company know of the danger?  Consequently, knowledge (either actual knowledge or should-have-known knowledge) is a crucial part of strict liability.

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