Winter v. G.P. Putnam's Sons

938 F.2d 1033 (9th Cir. 1991)



The language of products liability law reflects its focus on tangible items.


Wilhelm Winter and Cynthia Zheng were mushroom enthusiasts who became severely ill from picking and eating mushrooms after relying on information in The Encyclopedia of Mushrooms, a book published by the defendant, G. P. Putnam's Sons. They filed suit against the defendant alleging liability based on products liability, breach of warranty, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and false representations. They alleged that the book contained erroneous and misleading information concerning the identification of the most deadly species of mushrooms. G.P. Putnam’s Sons moved for summary judgment asserting that plaintiffs' claims failed as a matter of law because the information contained in a book was not a product for the purposes of strict liability under products liability law. Furthermore, G.P. Putnam’s Sons asserted that it was not liable under any remaining theories because a publisher did not have a duty to investigate the accuracy of the text it has published. The district court granted summary judgment for the publishing company. Consequently, the plaintiffs appealed.


Did the district court err in its decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant, G. P. Putnam's Sons?




The appellate court affirmed the decision of the district court, holding that the expressions contained in the defendant’s book and relied upon by plaintiffs were not tangible, physical items to which the theory of products liability applied. Additionally, the appellate court ruled that plaintiffs could assert no actionable negligence theory because defendant had no duty to independently investigate and verify the accuracy of the text it published.

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