Liability for “Manufacturing Defects” in California

California “products liability” laws allow a plaintiff 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 discuss, below:

You may also wish to see our article on "design defects" in California products liability cases.

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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.

The plaintiff does not need to prove that a manufacturer of a defective product was negligent.

Rather, a plaintiff satisfies his burden of proving a "manufacturing defect" by showing that a defect exists and that it was a proximate (legal) cause of the plaintiff's injuries.4

3. The elements of a “manufacturing defect” claim

To prove liability for a manufacturing defect in California, a plaintiff must prove four “elements”:

  1. That the defendant manufactured, distributed or sold a product;
  2. That the product contained a manufacturing defect when it left the defendant's possession;
  3. That the plaintiff was harmed; and
  4. That the product's defect was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's 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 the plaintiff is injured.6

But, under California's “discovery rule,” the two-year period does not begin to run until the plaintiff knows – 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

Injured by a defective product? Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know was injured by a manufacturing or design defect in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Call us at (855) LAWFIRM to speak to a lawyer about whether you can sue under California's products liability laws.

If you were injured by a manufacturing defect in Nevada, you may wish to see our article on “dangerous products in Nevada.”

Legal references:

  1. 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).
  2. See Escola v. Coca Cola Bottling Co. (1944) 24 Cal.2d 453.
  3. Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal.2d 57.

  4. See Barker, end note 1.
  5. California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 1201 (Strict Liability - Manufacturing Defect - Essential Factual Elements).
  6. California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1 CCP.
  7. See e.g., Jolly v. Eli Lilly Co., 44 Cal.3d 1103, 1109 (1988); Tucker v. Baxter Healthcare Corporation (9th Cir. 1998) 158 F.3d 1046; CACI 455 (Statute of Limitations - Delayed Discovery).
  8. See Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery (2005) 35 Cal.4th 797.

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