Monday, November 11, 2013

Barker v. Lull Engineering Co. case brief

Barker v. Lull Engineering Co. case brief summary
573 P.2d 443 (Cal. 1978)

Appellant challenged decision of the Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco (California), which ruled in favor of respondents on appellant's claims for strict product liability.


Appellant was injured while he was operating a high-lift loader manufactured by respondent. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of respondents. Appellant contended that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that strict liability for a defect in design of a product was based on a finding that the product was unreasonably dangerous for its intended use.


  • The court reversed, holding that a product was defective in design either if the product failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner, or if the benefits of the challenged design did not outweigh the risk of danger. 
  • Because the jury could have interpreted the erroneous instruction given as requiring appellant to prove that the high-lift loader was more dangerous than the average consumer contemplated, and because the instruction additionally misinformed the jury that the defectiveness of the product was required to be evaluated in light of the product's "intended use" rather than its "reasonably foreseeable use," the error was not harmless.


The court reversed the judgment for respondents, because the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it base its finding on whether the product was unreasonably dangerous.

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