Law School Case Brief
Chavez v. Glock, Inc. - 207 Cal. App. 4th 1283, 144 Cal. Rptr. 3d 326 (2012)
A design defect exists when a product is built in accordance with its intended specifications, but the design itself is inherently defective. The court has recognized two tests for proving design defect. The consumer expectation test permits a plaintiff to prove design defect by demonstrating that the product failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. This test, rooted in theories of warranty, recognizes that implicit in a product's presence on the market is a representation that it is fit to do safely the job for which it was intended. If the facts permit an inference that the product at issue is one about which consumers may form minimum safety assumptions in the context of a particular accident, then it is enough for a plaintiff, proceeding under the consumer expectation test, to show the circumstances of the accident and the objective features of the product that are relevant to an evaluation of its safety, leaving it to the fact-finder to employ its own sense of whether the product meets ordinary expectations as to its safety under the circumstances presented by the evidence. Expert testimony as to what consumers ordinarily expect is generally improper.
Los Angeles Police Officer Enrique Herrera Chavez was shot in the back with his service weapon, a Glock 21, by his three-year-old son, rendering him a paraplegic. Chavez and his wife, Leonora Aduna Chavez, sued Glock, Inc. and others for strict product liability and related torts, alleging the Glock 21 is defective because it has a light trigger pull without an appropriate safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge and the holster fails to sufficiently protect the trigger or properly secure the gun. The trial court granted the motions for summary judgment filed by Glock, Inc.
Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment to the gun manufacturer and retailer as to the design defect claim?
The court of appeal held that summary judgment should not have been granted to the gun manufacturer and retailer as to the design defect claim because they did not show that Chavez lacked evidence of causation. Chavez' expert opined that if a small child's hand were in the proper position to fire, it would not have the size or leverage to depress a grip safety, had one been present, and actually extend the finger out far enough to pull the trigger. The court also held that (1) summary adjudication was proper on the claim of failure to warn Chavez, who was a sophisticated user, that the firearm should only be used with specific holsters; (2) Chavez was not deprived of privity for purposes of a breach of implied warranty cause of action, even though he and his partner had inadvertently switched weapons; and (3) there were triable issues as to whether the claims were barred by federal law or fell within an exception.
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