ongoing a relationship to the claims against McDonnell Douglas as California. Accordingly, California law shall govern plaintiffs' liability claims against McDonnell Douglas.
In order to establish strict liability under California law against McDonnell Douglas on the basis of a manufacturing defect, plaintiffs must prove: (1) that the product was defectively manufactured; (2) the defect in the product existed at the time the DC-10 left McDonnell Douglas' control; (3) the alleged defect was the proximate cause of injury; and (4) the injury resulted from a foreseeable use of the product. See e.g., Doupnik v. General Motors Corp., 225 Cal. App. 3d 849, 859, 275 Cal. Rptr. 715 (1990). As under Ohio law, an actionable defect in the manufacture of a product exists if the product differs from the manufacturer's intended result or if the product differs from apparently identical products from the same manufacturer. Id.
California, like Ohio, recognizes certain limits to actions based in strict liability. First, California recognizes the doctrine of intervening causation in strict product liability cases. See e.g., Stevens v. Parke, Davis & Co., 9 Cal. 3d 51, 107 Cal. Rptr. 45, 507 P.2d 653 (1973). An intervening cause may cut off a defendant manufacturer's liability for a defective product where a plaintiff's injury is proximately caused by an unforeseeable intervening act. See id., 9 Cal. 3d at 69, 107 Cal. Rptr. at 56.
Plaintiffs contend, with little supporting analysis, that the facts supporting summary judgment on their strict liability claims against General Electric under Ohio law equally favors summary judgment on their strict liability claims against McDonnell Douglas. Given the similarity of the product liability laws of Ohio and California, it is not surprising that plaintiffs' motion with respect to the claims against McDonnell Douglas fail for the same reasons as plaintiffs' claims against General Electric. As noted in the context of addressing the claims against General Electric, plaintiffs' own evidence raises issues of fact regarding the related issues of proximate and intervening causation. For example, plaintiffs' expert, Manuel Raefsky, has testified that the crash was caused by a metal fatigue crack that should have been detected by United Airlines during subsequent inspections of the fan disk. Raefsky Dep. at 142, 151-53. This evidence, at a minimum, creates a strong inference of intervening causation. The foreseeability of a purported intervening cause is a question of fact. Thus, "if there is room for reasonable men to differ as to whether the intervening act was reasonably foreseeable, then the question is properly left to the jury." Id., citing McEvoy v. American Pool Corp., 32 Cal. 2d 295, 195 P.2d 783 (1948); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 453, comment e.
A second possible limit to plaintiffs' strict product liability claim against McDonnell Douglas is suggested in the seminal California case establishing the concept of strict liability in tort, which plaintiffs cite in support of the present motion. The court in Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc., 59 Cal. 2d 57, 27 Cal. Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897 (1963), held that a manufacturer is strictly liable "when an article he places on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection, proves to have a defect that causes injury to a person." Id. 59 Cal. 2d at 62, 27 Cal. Rptr. at 700 (1963) (emphasis added). Evidence regarding United's failure to detect a metal fatigue crack thus may take on an even greater significance when viewed against the backdrop of Yuba Power, particularly to the extent that Yuba Power suggests that McDonnell Douglas may be absolved of liability as a matter of law if its DC-10 and fan disk were not to be used unless regularly inspected by their owner. Accordingly, plaintiffs fail to establish that no genuine issues of material fact exist and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law with respect to their claims against McDonnell Douglas.
Plaintiffs' motions for partial summary judgment against General Electric and McDonnell Douglas are denied.
Suzanne B. Conlon
United States District Judge
December 26, 1991