Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
An overwhelming majority of states have adopted the view that comparative fault should apply to products liability actions based on strict liability.
Plaintiff, Mark D. Whitehead, was injured when a 1988 Toyota pickup truck that he was driving crossed the center line of the road and collided head-on with a vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction from Mr. Whitehead's pickup truck. The plaintiffs sued the defendants, the manufacturer and the seller of the truck, based on the plaintiffs' contention that Mark D. Whitehead's injuries were enhanced beyond those he would have received had the truck he was driving been more crash-worthy. The plaintiffs specifically contended that the seatbelt system of the Toyota pickup truck was defective. The defendants answered the complaint, maintaining that there were no defects in the truck. The defendants also asserted the affirmative defense of comparative fault. The plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment in which they sought to have the U.S. District Court dismiss the defendants' affirmative defenses, including the defense of comparative fault. The District Court granted plaintiffs’ motion, holding that the comparative fault defense was not applicable to an action based on strict liability in tort. The defendants then filed a motion in the district court in which they sought an interlocutory appeal on the comparative fault issue. The court granted the defendants' motion for an interlocutory appeal. The district court then certified to the state supreme court two questions for review.
The Court held that comparative fault principles did apply in products liability actions based on strict liability in tort. The triers of fact would determine the percentage of a plaintiff's damages that was attributable to the defective or unreasonably dangerous product, as well as the percentage that was attributable to the plaintiff's own fault. On the second question, the Court held that comparative fault principles applied to enhanced injury cases in which the defective product did not cause or contribute to the accident. The respective fault of the manufacturer and of the consumer should be compared with each other with respect to all damages and injuries for which the fault of each was a cause in fact and a proximate cause.