Individual States 

CALIFORNIA

ASSUMPTION OF RISK

Primary assumption of risk continues to be a complete bar to recovery. Knight v. Jewett, 834 P.2d 696 (Cal. 1992) .

Secondary assumption of risk is an element of comparative fault and not a complete bar to recovery. Knight v. Jewett, 834 P.2d 696 (Cal. 1992) .

CAPS ON NONECONOMIC DAMAGES

There are no exclusive Products Liability statutes under this category.

COMPARATIVE FAULT

California has adopted a "pure" comparative fault scheme applicable to strict liability and negligence actions where claimant's fault reduces recovery, but is not a bar. In strict product liability actions, fault is evaluated through claimant's conduct as compared to the defendant's product. Daly v. General Motors Corp., 20 Cal. 3d 725 (1978) .

ECONOMIC LOSS

The economic loss rule allows a plaintiff to recover in strict products liability in tort when a product defect causes personal injuries or damage to "other property," that is, property other than the product itself. Jimenez v. The Superior Court of San Diego County, 29 Cal.4th 473 (Cal. 2002) .

In a case falling under admiralty jurisdiction, a Court of Appeal in the Second District with limited binding authority specifically held that when the damage to the "other property" is de minimis, the economic loss rule will bar recovery in tort. Additionally, that court also held that, notwithstanding a showing of damage to "other property", plaintiff is only entitled to recover for the value of the damaged personal property and not for the value of damages to the product itself. Lewinter v. Genmar Industries, Inc., 26 Cal.App.4th 1214 (1994) .

JOINT & SEVERAL LIABILITY

Liability is presumed to be joint and not several, except in certain special contract cases. In actions for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death, based upon principles of comparative fault, liability for non-economic damages shall be several, but not joint, with each defendant being liable only for his proportionate share. Cal. Civ. Code §§1431, 1431.2 .

PUNITIVE DAMAGES

California law allows for the recovery of punitive damages in product liability actions. Plaintiff is required to prove by "clear and convincing" evidence that defendant is guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice. Punitive damages are not allowed in wrongful death actions unless awarded through a survival action brought on behalf of a decedent's estate. Cal. Civ. Code §3294 .

Punitive damages are not recoverable in claims based on breach of contract or breach of warranty. Ebaugh v. Rabkin, 22 Cal. App.3d 891 (1972) .

Evidence of defendant's financial condition is a prerequisite for an award of punitive damages and the burden of producing this evidence is on plaintiff. Cal. Civ. Code §3295 .

RIGHT TO CONTRIBUTION

Except where a party enters into a settlement or covenant not to sue, a party to a joint, or joint and several, obligation who satisfies more than his share of the claim, may require contribution from the other joint parties. Cal. Civ. Code §1432 .

Release of one debtor does not extinguish the obligation of the others or their right to contribution from the released tortfeasor, but it shall reduce the claims against the others by the greater of the amount stipulated or the amount of consideration paid. Cal. Civ. Code §1543 ; Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §877 .

A nonparty defense can be sustained, whereby a defendant may reduce his liability by claiming that some amount of fault is attributable to a nonparty, subject to certain conditions. Definite v. Up-Right, Inc., 828 P.2d 140, 145 (Cal. 1992) .

SPECIAL DEFENSES

Manufacturer or seller is not liable where a common consumer product intended for personal consumption is inherently unsafe and this is known to the ordinary customer. This applies to any action for injury or death caused by a product, except those based on a manufacturing defect or breach of an express warranty. Cal. Civ. Code §1714.45 .

A manufacturer is not liable for damages arising from misuse or substantial alteration of a product that is not reasonably foreseeable after it leaves the manufacturer's possession. Horn v. General Motors Corp., 17 Cal.3d 359 (1976) .

The government contractor defense is available to non-military manufacturers in a product liability action. However compliance with government specifications is not a defense to such a claim. McLaughlin v. Sikorsky Aircraft, 148 Cal. App3d 203 (1983) .

STATUTES OF LIMITATION

Personal injury and wrongful death actions must be brought within two years. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §335.1 .

Property damage actions must be brought within three years. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §338(a), (c), (j) .

Breach of warranty actions must be brought within four years. Cal. Comm. Code §2725 .

STATUTES OF REPOSE

There is no statute of repose for product liability actions in California.

STRUCTURED SETTLEMENT

There are no exclusive Products Liability statutes under this category.