California Supreme Court Says Use of Industry Custom and Practice Evidence Is a “Two-Way Street” in Products Liability Actions

RobertWrightJAT updated 150106_024_1a_webFeatured Expert Contributor, Mass Torts—Asbestos

By Robert H. Wright, a Partner with Horvitz & Levy LLP in Los Angeles, CA, with Partner John A. Taylor, Jr. Mr. Taylor was counsel of record on an amicus brief filed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Kim.

In 2016, the California Supreme Court granted review in Kim v. Toyota Motor Corporation to determine whether, in a strict products liability action, evidence that a product’s design conforms with industry custom and practice is relevant and admissible.  Several appellate decisions in California had previously held that such evidence is categorically inadmissible, but the lower appellate court in Kim had taken a more nuanced approach, saying, in effect, “it all depends.”

Manufacturers awaited Kim with some anxiety, given that California is now the world’s fifth largest economy, other states look to California law for guidance on products liability law issues, and recent personnel changes on the court made the outcome in the case somewhat unpredictable.

The manufacturing industry therefore breathed a collective sigh of relief when, in August 2018, the California Supreme Court finally issued its decision in Kim, after considering briefing from the parties and nearly a half dozen amicus briefs from industry groups, business organizations, and the defense bar.  Continue reading “California Supreme Court Says Use of Industry Custom and Practice Evidence Is a “Two-Way Street” in Products Liability Actions”