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In California, commercial sellers of used products are not strictly liable for injuries caused by defects in the products which were present at the time of initial distribution.
Plaintiff Kurt Meyering was severely injured when he was struck on the head by a chunk of concrete thrown from a freeway overpass by two juveniles. At the time of his injury, Meyering was driving a 1984 Chevrolet Corvette recently purchased by his girlfriend, Jane Casey. The concrete chunk struck him after penetrating the car's sunroof. The Corvette was designed and manufactured by defendant General Motors Corporation (GM) and had been sold to Casey by defendant Ball Oldsmobile. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit against defendants, alleging that the Corvette was defectively designed and manufactured and that defendants were negligent in the design, manufacture and distribution of the automobile. In sustaining the separate demurrers filed by GM and Ball, the trial court accepted defendants' argument that the criminal conduct of the two juveniles constituted an unforeseeable intervening act which the manufacturer and seller of the vehicle had no duty to guard against. Plaintiff appealed.
On review, the court first held that fact issues as to foreseeability on the negligence claims against both defendants precluded disposition by demurrer. Thus, the court reversed the trial court's judgment on the issues. In so holding, the court rejected defendant car manufacturer's claim that the intervening criminal act of the juveniles was a superseding cause that insulated defendant car manufacturer from liability as a matter of law. The court then held that plaintiff also successfully stated a cause of action against defendant car manufacturer as to his strict liability claim. However, the court followed prior case law in holding that a commercial seller of used products was not strictly liable for product defects present at the time of their initial distribution. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's rejection of plaintiff's strict liability suit against defendant car distributor.