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Winter v. G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Citation. 938 F.2d 1033
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938 F.2d 1033

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiffs detrimentally relied on representations of mushrooms in an encyclopedia distributed by defendant.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Products liability law does not extend to ideas and expression a book.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Products liability law is geared to the tangible world.

View Full Point of Law
Facts.

G.P. Putnam’s Sons (“Putnam”) (defendant) purchased and distributed a British encyclopedia about mushrooms to customers in the United States. The Winters purchased a copy of the book distributed by Putnam. While mushroom hunting, the Winters relied on the book to determine which mushrooms would be safe to eat. After cooking and eating their mushrooms, the Winters became critically ill and required liver transplants. The Winters sued Putnam for various claims related to misrepresentation.

Issue.

Whether representations of mushrooms in a book are considered “products” for the purpose of products liability law?

Held.

No. The holding of the district court is affirmed.

Dissent.

Discussion.

Products liability is focused on tangible items. Ideas and expression are intangible, and are therefore outside the scope of products liability law. Here, the Winters argue that the mushroom encyclopedia is analogous to aeronautical charts. While several jurisdictions have found aeronautical charts to be “products” for purposes of products liability law, this court is not persuaded. A chart is like a physical “product,” whereas a “how to use” book is pure thought and expression. Here, the Winters have not stated a claim capable of surviving summary judgment.


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