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Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc.

Citation. 59 Cal.2d 57, 377 P.2d 897, 27 Cal.Rptr. 697
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff was gifted a combination power tool machine. He purchased attachments to use the machine as a wood lathe. One day while working on a project, a piece of wood flew out of the machine and struck plaintiff on the forehead. Plaintiff was seriously injured as a result and brought suit against defendant, the retailer and manufacturer of the machine. In his suit, plaintiff alleged defendant was liable for breach of an express warranty and negligence.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

If a manufacturer places an article on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, and that article proves to have a defect that causes injury to an individual, then the manufacturer will be held strictly liable in tort.


Greenman (plaintiff) desired a Shopsmith, a combination power tool that could be used as a saw, drill, and wood lathe. Greenman’s wife gave him a Shopsmith as a Christmas gift. Two years later, Greenman purchased the necessary attachments to use the Shopsmith as a wood lathe. He used the Shopsmith several times without any difficulty in an effort to turn a large piece of wood into a chalice. One day while Greenman was working on the chalice, the piece of wood suddenly flew out of the Shopsmith. The wood struck him on the forehead and he suffered serious injuries as a result. Greenman later filed suit against Yuba Power Products, Inc. (defendant), the retailer and manufacturer of the Shopsmith. In his complaint, Greenman alleged breach of express warranties and negligence. At trial, Greenman introduced evidence that his injuries were caused by the defective design and construction of the Shopsmith. Yuba Power Products, Inc. alleged that Greenman did not provide notice of breach of warranty within a reasonable time and that therefore his cause of action was barred.


Whether an injured party’s cause of action is barred if he or she did not provide timely notice of breach of express warranty?


No, although Greenman did not provide timely notice of breach of warranty to Yuba Power Products, Inc., his cause of action for breach of express warranties is not barred. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


Strict liability has usually been based on privity of contract between the manufacturer to the injured party. However, products liability should not be assumed by contract but instead imposed by law. Imposing strict liability on a manufacturer ensures that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by the manufacturers and not consumers “who are powerless to protect themselves.” Accordingly, it is not necessary for an injured plaintiff to establish the existence of an express warranty. Here, it is sufficient that Greenman proved that he was injured while using the Shopsmith in a way that it was intended to be used as a result of a defect in the design of which Greenmade was not made aware.

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