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Legal Memorandum: Liability for Modifications to a Juicer

Issue: WHAT EFFECT ON APPORTIONMENT OF FAULT WOULD A FAILURE OF A MODIFICATION EFFORT TO A JUICER THAT INJURED A PLAINTIFF.

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Failure of a modification; Injury caused; Liability
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Cal. Civ. Code. § 1431.2
Date: 07/01/2005

Under California law, to establish liability for negligence requires proof of a duty, breach of that duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s damages.  Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Ctr., 863 P.2d. 207, 211 (Cal. 1993). 

Nonetheless, assuming a company’s liability for negligence, the proportionate share of Plaintiff’s non-economic damages allocated to a Company may, but not necessarily must be increased if it is found liable for negligence in connection with the failure of the modification campaign to retrofit the juicer that injured Plaintiff. 

If a company is not liable in strict liability, no share of Plaintiff’s damages could be allocated to it, of course, in the absence of liability on some other basis such as negligence.  Thus, if the jury finds Company liable only for negligence for an unreasonable retrofit campaign, for example, it must attribute some proportion of “fault” to Company for non-economic damages and in the absence of any other basis for Company’s liability that amount would represent the allocable share of Company’s “several” liability.  See Cal. Civ. Code. § 1431.2.

If Company is found liable in strict liability the jury must allocate that proportion of Plaintiff’s non-economic damages to Company.  If, further, in addition to that basis, the jury also found Company liable for a negligent retrofit program, no reason is apparent why the jury could not consider the breach of a separate duty to Plaintiff as additional “fault” and thus attribute a greater proportion […]

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