Cronin v. J. B. E. Olson Corp.
501 P.2d 1153 (Cal. 1972)

Facts:

  • P was a route salesman driving a bread delivery truck. Another driver cut him off and they got into an accident.
  • The impact broke an aluminum safety hasp which was located just behind the driver’s seat and designed to hold the bread trays in place. The loaded trays struck plaintiff in the back and hurled him through the windshield. He sustained serious personal injuries.
  • P sued Chase (they sold the truck), Olson (sales agent that sold the truck to Chase) and General Motors Corporation alleging that the truck was unsafe for its intended use because of defects in its manufacture, in that the metal hasp was exceedingly porous, contained holes, pits and voids, and lacked sufficient tensile strength to withstand the impact.
    • P’s expert testified to the same.

History:
The jury returned a verdict in favor of P and against Olson in the sum of $45,000 but in favor of defendant Chase and against P.

Issue:
Whether the injured plaintiff seeking recovery upon the theory of strict liability in tort must establish, among other facts, not only that the product contained a defect which proximately caused his injuries but also that such defective condition made the product unreasonable dangerous to the user or consumer.

Holding:
No. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A refers to “any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer.”
  • Here, the court held that proving “unreasonably dangerous” would burden the injured plaintiff with proof of an element which rings of negligence.
  • “Although the seller should not be responsible for all injuries involving the use of its products, it should be liable for all injuries proximately caused by any of its products which are adjudged ‘defective.’”
  • Case basically says to not take that language literally and make it an express requirement / element – simply focus on whether there was a defect.
  • Prof: This is a minority rule.

Rule: An injured plaintiff seeking recovery on theory of strict liability in tort need NOT prove that a defect made the product unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer; rule applies to manufacture as well as design defects.