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In 1965, Connecticut became one of the first jurisdictions to adopt, as a matter of state common law, that an action exists for strict product liability in tort without the requirement of privity between the seller and the consumer or proof of manufacturer fault. The elements of a strict liability action that the Connecticut Supreme Court have derived require the plaintiff to prove: (1) the defendant was engaged in the business of selling the product; (2) the product was in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the consumer or user; (3) the defect caused the injury for which compensation was sought; (4) the defect existed at the time of the sale; and (5) the product was expected to and did reach the consumer without substantial change in condition. The Court derives its definition of unreasonably dangerous, the second element of our strict liability test, from the following: To be considered unreasonably dangerous, the article sold must be dangerous to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary consumer who purchases it, with the ordinary knowledge common to the community as to its characteristics. That definition eventually came to be known under Connecticut law as the ordinary consumer expectation test.
The defendant, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (R.J. Reynolds), appealed to that court from the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut in favor of the plaintiff, Barbara A. Izzarelli, a former smoker and cancer survivor, on an action brought pursuant to Connecticut's Product Liability Act (liability act), General Statutes § 52-572m et seq.
Did the "good tobacco" exception to strict products liability contained in comment (i) to § 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts preclude an action in this state against a cigarette manufacturer for including additives and manipulating the nicotine in its cigarettes in a manner that ultimately increases the user's risk of cancer?
The court held that Izzarelli was not precluded from pursuing her suit for damages for personal injuries she sustained as a result of having smoked R.J. Reynolds’ cigarettes for 25 years. The court held that under Connecticut product liability law, the modified consumer expectation test is the primary strict product liability test and the ordinary consumer expectation test is reserved for those limited cases in which a product fails to meet the ordinary consumer's legitimate, commonly accepted minimum safety expectations.