Greenman v. Yuba Power Prods., Inc.

59 Cal. 2d 57, 27 Cal. Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897 (1963)



The purpose of imposing strict liability on the manufacturer is to insure that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by the manufacturers that put such products on the market rather than by the injured persons who are powerless to protect themselves. Implicit in a product's presence on the market is a representation that it will safely do the jobs for which it was built. 


A man saw a Shopsmith, a combination power tool that could be used as a saw, drill, and wood lathe, demonstrated by the retailer and studied a brochure prepared by the manufacturer. He decided he wanted a Shopsmith for his home workshop, and his wife bought and gave him one for Christmas in 1955. In 1957 he bought the necessary attachments to use the Shopsmith as a lathe for turning a large piece of wood he wished to make into a chalice. After he had worked on the piece of wood several times without difficulty, it suddenly flew out of the machine and struck him on the forehead, inflicting serious injuries. About 10 1/2 months later, he gave the retailer and the manufacturer written notice of claimed breaches of warranties and filed a complaint for damages against them alleging such breaches and negligence. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the retailer and in favor of the injured man as against the manufacturer. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of California.


Was the manufacturer liable for damages?




In upholding the judgment of the trial court, the court held that the manufacturer was strictly liable in tort because the power tool that was placed on the market, without inspection for defects, had a hidden defect that caused injury. The court further held that there was no requirement of a contract between the manufacturer and the injured man. It was sufficient that the injured man proved that he was injured while using the product in a way it was intended and that his injury was as a result of a defect in the design and manufacture, of which he was not aware and which made the product unsafe for its intended use.

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