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A brief look at some principles of strict product liability in California

Aircraft manufacturing is a process about which most consumers have very little knowledge. As consumers, we rely on manufacturers and their suppliers to produce quality products that function properly and do not put consumers at unnecessary risk of harm. When aircraft manufacturing goes wrong and a consumer is harmed as a result, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to build the strongest possible case for both liability and damages.

The law regarding product liability varies by state. In California, plaintiffs are able to seek recover for aircraft manufacturing defects under several legal theories: negligence; breach of warranty; and strict liability. The difference between strict liability and negligence is that, with negligence claims, a plaintiff must prove failure to exercise reasonable care, whereas strict liability only requires showing that the defendant was responsible for causing harm to the plaintiff. Breach of warranty claims can involve either express or implied warranties. Depending on the circumstances of the case, one of these legal theories usually makes more sense than the others, though multiple theories can apply.

Any party that puts aircraft products into the “stream of commerce” can be held liable under the theory of strict liability. This includes any party that manufactured, distributed or sold a product which contained a manufacturing defect when it left the party’s possession. The key element is that the defect must have been a substantial factor in the plaintiff’s injury.

Manufacturers of components parts can be held liable under California law if a component part was defective and caused harm to the plaintiff, but manufacturers are usually liable even if the defective part was supplied by another party. Manufacturers of non-defective component parts, however, are usually not held liable. There is no strict liability for harm from defects that arise after the sale of a product, but manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can be held liable on a theory of negligence for products that are dangerous when used in reasonably foreseeable manner.

Understanding and applying the law in the context of concrete circumstances is not always straightforward, of course, and it is necessary for consumers to work with an experienced attorney when pursuing aircraft product liability cases. Doing so ensures they have the best possible advocacy in their case.

Source: California Civil Jury Instructions, 1201-1202; 1223

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