Proximate cause in a products liability case serves a somewhat different role than in a case sounding in negligence because that cause of action seeks to impute liability to the manufacturer not on the basis of his negligence but because the product is not reasonably safe as it was designed. The tie which proximate cause is to provide in order to impose legal liability must be between the design defect of the product and the injury that is, the plaintiff must show that the design defect in the product was a substantial factor in causing his injury.
Appellant consumer filed an action of strict product liability and negligence as a result of injuries sustained when he was wearing a large manufactured "head" and was pushed by a patron and fell to the floor in a Reno club. Appellant consumer argued that the person who pushed him while he wore the manufacturer's product was a superseding intervening cause, and it was a question of fact for a jury to decide. The manufacturer argued that legal causation was normally a question of fact, but summary judgment was appropriate where there was no genuine issue of material fact as to the issue of foreseeability. Manufacturer argued in the trial court, and the trial court so found, that a patron who had pushed the consumer was an unforeseeable intervening cause that absolved the manufacturer of liability.
Does a third-party’s intervening intentional act break the chain of proximate causation between a defendant’s negligent conduct and a plaintiff’s subsequent injuries if the act is reasonably foreseeable?
The court rejected the manufacturer's argument and noted that a trier of fact could have found that the manufacturer should have foreseen the possibility the consumer might be pushed while wearing the manufacturer's product. In making this decision, the court determined that the consumer should not have been penalized because his counsel mistakenly conceded this issue. As to the strict liability claims of the consumer, the court found that the injuries could be considered as being within the foreseeable risks caused by the manufacturer's design of its product.