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The court overrules that portion of our decision in Becker v. IRM Corp., 38 Cal. 3d 454, 213 Cal. Rptr. 213, 698 P.2d 116 (1985) imposing strict products liability, and hold that neither landlords nor hotel proprietors are strictly liable on a products liability theory for injuries to their respective tenants and guests caused by a defect in the premises.
Plaintiff hotel guest filed an action for negligence and strict product liability against defendant hotel owner for injuries sustained when she slipped in the hotel bathtub. The trial court granted defendant's motion in limine to preclude plaintiff from introducing evidence of strict liability, holding that defendant could not be strictly liable as a matter of law. The court of appeals issued an opinion holding that a peremptory writ of mandate should issue directing the trial court to permit plaintiff to proceed on her strict liability theory concluding that Becker v. IRM Corp., 38 Cal. 3d 454 (1985) applied to hotel proprietors. Defendants sought review.
Could the plaintiff be permitted to proceed on her strict liability theory against defendant hotel?
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal to the extent it directed the superior court to permit plaintiff to proceed against defendant on a strict liability theory, and in all other respects affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal. The Court held that the trial court properly granted the owner's in limine motion to preclude plaintiff from arguing that the proprietor of a hotel was strictly liable under the doctrine of products liability for injuries to hotel guests caused by defects in the premises. According to the Court, it would be improper to impose strict products liability on a hotel proprietor or a residential landlord for injuries caused by an alleged defect in the premises that the proprietor or landlord did not create or market. Recognition of the implied warranty of habitability would not lead to the conclusion that a landlord was strictly liable for injuries to tenants caused by defects in the premises. The implied warranty of habitability gave a tenant a reasonable expectation that the landlord has inspected the rental dwelling and corrected any defects disclosed by the inspection that would render the dwelling uninhabitable. The Court also held that hotel proprietors and landlords that breached the applicable standard of care still may be found liable under general tort principles for injuries resulting from defects in their premises. Additionally, the injured tenant or guest retained any strict products liability cause of action that may lie against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of a defective product that causes the injury. Accordingly, the Court overruled that portion of its decision in Becker imposing strict products liability, and concluded that neither landlords nor hotel proprietors were strictly liable on a products liability theory for injuries to tenants and/or guests caused by a defect in the premises. The Court held that it erred in applying the doctrine of strict products liability to a residential landlord that was not part of the manufacturing or marketing enterprise of an allegedly defective product.