Utah Strict products liability
In order to prevail on a claim for strict products liability, the plaintiff must meet a three-part test. The plaintiff must show:
- that the product was unreasonably dangerous due to a defect or defective condition,
- that the defect existed at the time the product was sold, and
- that the defective condition was a cause of the plaintiff's injuries.
Lamb v. B & B Amusements Corp., 869 P.2d 926, 929 (Utah 1993). See Utah Code Ann. § 78-15-6 (1992); Ernest W. Hahn, Inc. v. Armco Steel Co., 601 P.2d 152, 156 (Utah 1979).
Strict products liability:
In the case Hahn v. Armco Steel Co., 601 P.2d 152 (Utah 1979), the Utah Supreme Court adopted section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts which defines strict liability. In that case, the Supreme Court stated:
One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm thereby caused to the ultimate user or consumer, or his property.
Id. at 156 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A (1965)). Defendant was not the seller of the water pipe and is, therefore, not strictly liable for damage caused by it.
Under the plain language of the controlling statute, a cause of action for strict liability cannot be maintained against Defendant if it cannot be shown that he was in fact the initial seller of the product. Section 78-15-6 states:
In any action for damages for personal injury, death, or property damage allegedly caused by a defect in a product:
(1) No product shall be considered to have a defect or to be in a defective condition, unless at the time the product was sold by the manufacturer or other initial seller, there was a defect or defective condition in the product which made the product unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer.
Utah Code Ann. § 78-15-6(1) (2002) (emphasis added). The Utah Supreme Court has twice interpreted this statute under its plain language reading. See Alder v. Bayer Corp., AGFA Division, 2002 UT 115, ¶¶ 21-23, 61 P.3d 1068 (holding that trial court properly denied motion for summary judgment under Product Liability Act because complaint did not allege defective design, but under a cause of action properly sounding in negligence); Slisze v. Stanley-Bostitch, 1999 UT 20, ¶8, 979 P.2d 317 (stating that “[a] statute will be construed according to its plain meaning” and holding that the plain language allowed a negligence action to be brought in that case).
The plain language of the statute requires that, in order to be strictly liable for a product, it must have been in a defective condition at the time it was sold by the manufacturer or the initial seller.
78B-6-703. Defect or defective condition making product unreasonably dangerous -- Rebuttable presumption.
- (1) In any action for damages for personal injury, death, or property damage allegedly caused by a defect in a product, a product may not be considered to have a defect or to be in a defective condition, unless at the time the product was sold by the manufacturer or other initial seller, there was a defect or defective condition in the product which made the product unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer.
- (2) There is a rebuttable presumption that a product is free from any defect or defective condition where the alleged defect in the plans or designs for the product or the methods and techniques of manufacturing, inspecting and testing the product were in conformity with government standards established for that industry which were in existence at the time the plans or designs for the product or the methods and techniques of manufacturing, inspecting and testing the product were adopted.
We hold there are two defenses to strict products liability, namely, (1) misuse of the product by the user or consumer (see comment “g” to Sec. 402A);5 and (2) knowledge of the defect by the user or consumer, who is aware of the danger and yet unreasonably proceeds to make use of the product, i. e., assumption of risk. (See comment “n” to Sec. 402A).6 And we further hold that the defenses of misuse and assumption of risk must relate to the defective product and cannot be extended to cover conduct by the user or consumer unrelated to that product.