California’s product liability laws allow you to sue for injuries from a manufacturing defect even if the manufacturer was not negligent. Under California law, a product contains a manufacturing defect if:
- The product differs from the manufacturer’s design or specifications, or
- The product differs from other typical units of the same product line.1
To help you better understand liability for manufacturing defects in California, our California personal injury lawyers will explain:
- 1. California’s legal definition of “manufacturing defect”
- 2. Strict liability for product injuries
- 3. The elements of a “manufacturing defect” claim
- 4. How long do I have to sue for a product defect in California?
You may also wish to see our article on “design defects” in California product liability cases.
1. California’s legal definition of “manufacturing defect”
In general, a manufacturing or production defect is one that causes a product to differ from:
- The manufacturer’s intended result, or
- Other ostensibly identical units of the same product line.
Example: A waitress is injured when a bottle of soda explodes in her hand for no apparent reason.2
2. Strict liability for product injuries
A product’s presence on the market carries an implicit representation that it will safely do the job(s) for which it was built.3
When a manufacturer places a product on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, and that product causes an injury, the manufacturer is responsible under California’s “strict liability” laws.
You do not need to prove that a manufacturer of a defective product was negligent. Rather, you satisfy your burden of proving a “manufacturing defect” by showing that a defect exists and that it was a proximate (legal) cause of your injuries.4
3. The elements of a “manufacturing defect” claim
To prove liability for a manufacturing defect in California, you must prove four “elements”:
- The defendant manufactured, distributed or sold a product;
- The product contained a manufacturing defect when it left the defendant’s possession;
- You were harmed; and
- The product’s defect was a substantial factor in causing your harm.5
4. How long do I have to sue for a product defect in California?
California’s statute of limitations for a manufacturing defect is generally two years from the date on which you are injured.6
Though under California’s “discovery rule,” the two-year period does not begin to run until you know – or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known – of both the injury and its relation to the product.7
Example: Yvonne becomes ill after undergoing surgery. She sues her doctor for medical malpractice. In the course of the suit, Yvonne learns that the doctor used a product that may have been defective. Yvonne did not even know of the product until she sued her doctor. Therefore the statute of limitations on her subsequent products liability claim does not begin running when her illness starts, but rather when she learns the product may have caused her illness.8
- Barker v. Lull Engineering Co. (1978) 20 Cal.3d 413; Jiminez v. Sears, Roebuck (1971) 4 Cal.3d 379; California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 1202 (Strict Liability – “Manufacturing Defect” – Explained).
- See Escola v. Coca Cola Bottling Co. (1944) 24 Cal.2d 453.
- Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal.2d 57.
- See Barker, endnote 1.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 1201 (Strict Liability – Manufacturing Defect – Essential Factual Elements). See also Defries v. Yamaha Motor Corp. (; Gall v. Smith & Nephew, Inc. (.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1 CCP.
- See, for example, Jolly v. Eli Lilly Co. (1988) 44 Cal.3d 1103; Tucker v. Baxter Healthcare Corporation (9th Cir. 1998) 158 F.3d 1046; CACI 455 (Statute of Limitations – Delayed Discovery).
- See Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery (2005) 35 Cal.4th 797.