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WPI 110.02.02 Crashworthiness / Enhanced Damage and Injury—Manufacturing and/Or Design Defect

6 WAPRAC WPI 110.02.02Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil

6 Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 110.02.02 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions
Part IX. Particularized Standards of Conduct
Chapter 110. Product Liability
WPI 110.02.02 Crashworthiness / Enhanced Damage and Injury—Manufacturing and/Or Design Defect
A manufacturer of a(name of product)has a duty to [manufacture] [design] the product to be crashworthy, that is, the product must be reasonably safe in reasonably foreseeable accidents or collisions. Based on this duty, a manufacturer of a(name of product)is liable for that portion of the damage or injury caused by the product design or manufacturing defect over and above the injury or damage that probably would have occurred as a result of a reasonably foreseeable accident or collision impact even without the product defect. The manufacturer is liable for this enhanced injury or damage even though the defect did not cause the accident or collision itself. [However, a manufacturer of a(name of product)is liable only for any of the plaintiff's enhanced injuries that were proximately caused by the alleged [manufacturing] [design] defects in the manufacturer's product or its component parts, and not injuries caused by the primary accident or collision itself.]
Use this instruction in cases in which a party has presented sufficient evidence to establish that plaintiff's injury or enhanced injury was proximately caused by a manufacturing or design defect, but was not necessarily caused by the accident itself. This instruction may also be used in situations involving warning issues. See the Comment below.
Use bracketed material as applicable.
In general. In the landmark case of Larsen v. General Motors Corp., 391 F.2d 495 (8th Cir. 1968), the court held that a vehicle manufacturer could be liable for “enhanced” injury caused by the failure of the vehicle to be crashworthy, but only for those injuries caused by that failure.
[T]he manufacturer should be liable for that portion of the damage or injury caused by the defective design over and above the damage or injury that probably would have occurred as a result of the impact or collision absent the defective design.
Larsen, 391 F.2d at 503 (emphasis added).
Washington expressly follows Larsen in imposing crashworthiness duties for design and manufacturing defects. Couch v. Mine Safety Appliances Co., 107 Wn.2d 232, 728 P.2d 585 (1986); Seattle-First Nat'l Bank v. Tabert, 86 Wn.2d 145, 542 P.2d 774 (1975); Baumgardner v. Am. Motors Corp., 83 Wn.2d 751, 522 P.2d 829 (1974). For example, Baumgardner involved claims for personal injuries and wrongful death resulting from an automobile collision in which a defective front seat broke loose and was propelled forward. The plaintiff, not wearing a seatbelt, was injured. The plaintiff's wife, wearing a seatbelt but not a shoulder harness, was killed after being crushed between the seat and the belt. The court distinguished accident causation from injury causation, noting that the plaintiff's claim was for his “enhanced injuries.” Baumgardner, 83 Wn.2d at 758. Similarly, in Couch, when a safety helmet failed, the court specified that the claim was for the harm over and above what would have been sustained without the defect, again drawing the line between injury causation and accident causation. Couch, 107 Wn.2d at 242–43; cf. Phennah v. Whalen, 28 Wn.App. 19, 621 P.2d 1304 (1980).
Component parts. The 1981 Washington Product Liability Act focuses on component parts of the product that caused the injury in its definition of “product”:
(3) Product. … The “relevant product” under this chapter is that product or its component part or parts which gave rise to the product liability claim.
RCW 7.72.010(3).
In a crashworthiness case the “relevant product” is generally some subcomponent of the vehicle such as an airbag, restraint, fuel system, roof, or steering column instead of the vehicle itself. Thus, the overall safety record of the vehicle is not relevant to the issue of whether or not the “relevant product” is unsafe. See, e.g., Skeie v. Mercer Trucking Co., 115 Wn.App. 144, 150, 61 P.3d 1207 (2003) (“Although a product may be safe for its intended use, its manufacturer may still be liable for other unsafe uses that are reasonably foreseeable”). In addition, because the emphasis is on the defective component, causation issues relating to allocation of fault and comparative fault are more narrowly focused and confined to conduct relating to the defective components rather than conduct relating to the vehicle as a whole.
[Current as of December 2020.]
End of Document