California Law Update: Admissibility of Industry Custom and Practice - Design Defect (Kim v. Toyota)
By: Richard Finn
California Law Update
Admissibility of Industry Custom and Practice - Design Defect
Kim v. Toyota
Richard J. Finn
Richard Finn is an AV rated trial attorney who practices in the areas of environmental, business and commercial, and construction law. He has extensive trial experience in state and federal courts including matters that have tried to verdict in California and Nevada. Mr. Finn is regularly retained to handle litigation in jurisdictions outside of California.
Plaintiff was injured after he lost control of his Toyota Tundra pickup truck. Plaintiff alleged the vehicle was defective because it did not include a particular safety feature known as Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). The jury heard evidence that no vehicle manufacturer at that time included the VSC as standard equipment in pickup trucks. The jury found in Toyota's favor and the Court of Appeal affirmed.
At issue before the Supreme Court was whether evidence of industry custom and practice was admissible in a strict products liability action. In affirming the Appellate Court, it was held that in a risk / benefit design defect case such evidence may be relevant to the issue of whether the product is as safely designed as it should be, considering the feasibility and cost of alternative designs. The court observed that evidence of industry custom and practice sometimes does shed light not just of the reasonableness of the manufacturer's conduct in designing a product, but on the adequacy of the design itself.
It remains the law that evidence of conformance of industry custom and practice is inadmissible to show that a manufacturer acted reasonably in adopting a challenged design. Under the Kim decision, such evidence can be introduced to aid the jury in it's evaluating whether the product is as safely designed as it should be, considering the feasibility and cost of alternative designs.
This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.