Law School Case Brief
Gottsdanker v. Cutter Labs. - 182 Cal. App. 2d 602 (1960)
The rule that privity of contract is a requirement for implied warranty liability is followed in California as to most manufactured products.
Two children contracted poliomyelitis shortly after being inoculated with Salk vaccine manufactured by defendant. On the premise that defendant's vaccine caused the illness it was designed to prevent, an action for damages was brought on behalf of each child alleging breach of implied warranty of merchantability and breach of implied warranty of fitness. The actions were consolidated for trial. Jury verdicts were in favor of the two children for a total of $139,000, and for their parents for $8,300 in special damages. The vaccine manufacturer appealed.
Did the vaccine manufacturer breach the implied warranties of merchantability and of fitness?
The court affirmed the trial court's order entered in favor of the patients in their breach of implied warranties action against the manufacturer. It held that the absence of privity did not bar recovery on implied warranty from the manufacturer. The patients, and not the doctors, were the ultimate consumers of the vaccine. Nothing in the directions contained on the boxes of the vaccine was inconsistent with the implied warranties of fitness and merchantability. There was substantial evidence to sustain the jury's finding that the inoculation caused the patients to suffer polio. The manufacturer's vaccine contained live and active poliomyelitis virus, and thus the vaccine was neither merchantable nor fit for its intended purpose. The vaccine was not within the scope of Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1623.
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