California Supreme Court Addresses Admissibility of Industry Custom and Practice Evidence in Strict Liability Actions
August 27, 2018
Kim v. Toyota Motor Corporation
(Aug. 27, 2018, S232754) ___ Cal.5th ____
In Kim v. Toyota Motor Corporation, the California Supreme Court has held that evidence of industry custom and practice may be relevant to the strict products liability inquiry, “including the jury’s evaluation of whether the product is as safely designed as it should be, considering the feasibility and cost of alternative designs.”
By industry custom and practice, the Supreme Court addressed “'what is done’” within the relevant industry, rather than state of the art evidence concerning “'what can be done’ under present technological capacity.” The court held that “evidence of other manufacturers’ design decisions” may aid the jury’s understanding of the complexities and trade-offs of a particular design “in determining whether the manufacturer has balanced the relevant considerations correctly.” The Supreme Court’s decision expressly disapproved several Court of Appeal decisions that had taken the view that such evidence is always irrelevant, and thus inadmissible, to the risk-benefit analysis.