Last week, CBL reported here on O'Neil v. Crane Co. (September 21, 2009) ___Cal.App.4th___ (B208225), and the decision earlier this year in Taylor v. Elliott Turbomachinery Co., Inc. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 564. Both cases addressed
this question: if a manufacturer's product is not itself defective, but becomes defective when used in conjunction with a third-party's defective products (e.g., the defendant's valves made of steel, but are used with asbestos gaskets and packing made by somebody else), can the manufacturer be held liable for failure to warn of the dangers posed by the component it neither manufactured nor sold? The First District in Taylor said no. The Second District in O'Neil said yes.
But this seems to be a moving target. From this past Friday, here comes Merrill v. Leslie Controls, Inc. (September 25, 2009) ___Cal.App.4th ___ (BC352170), also from the Second District, and agreeing with Taylor:
- If you didn't manufacture or distribute the component, no duty to warn;
- If you didn't manufacture or distribute the component, no strict product liability for injuries caused by adding the component; and
- If you didn't manufacture or distribute the component, no negligence liability for failure to warn, either.
So we now have three conflicting decisions on this subject, including two in conflict from the same appellate district. As previously discussed, every trial court can follow any one of them. And this issue has "State Supreme Court review" written all over it.