Jimenez v. Superior Court

Decision Date04 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. S091453.,S091453.
Citation58 P.3d 450,29 Cal.4th 473,127 Cal.Rptr.2d 614
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
PartiesFilipina JIMENEZ et al., Petitioners, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of San Diego County, Respondent; T.M. Cobb Company et al., Real Parties in Interest.

Rehearing Denied January 22, 2003.1

Niddrie & Hegemier, David A. Niddrie; Eppsteiner & Associates, Stuart M. Eppsteiner, San Diego, and Neal A. Markowitz, for Petitioners.

Anderson & Kriger and Mary M. Best, Temecula, for William E. Casey et al., as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Reed Elliott Creech & Roth, John W. Elliott and Thomas A. Elliott, San Jose, for Orchard Glen Venture, Eagle Square Partners, Prometheus Income Partners, Benton Park and Kensington-Fair Oaks Associates Joint Venture as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

No appearance for Respondent.

McAfee Harmeyer, Jeff G. Harmeyer, Greg A. McAtee and Robert J. Hudock for Real Party in Interest Viking Industries, Inc.

Horton & Ryan, Sullivan & Christiani, William B. Sullivan and Toni L. Christiani, San Diego, for Real Party in Interest T.M. Cobb Company. Acker, Kowalick & Whipple, Los Angeles, and Brian F. Drazich for Premier Window Products Corporation and Guaranteed Products Corporation as Amicis Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Monteleone & McCrory, William J. Ingalsbe and G. Robert Hale, Santa Ana, for Southern California Ready Mixed Concrete Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Sieving & DeMund, Sieving & Momjian, Richard N. Sieving and Julie P. Momjian, Sacramento, for Jeld-Wen, Inc., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

McCutcheon, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, Michael I. Begert, Frank Kennamer and Todd A. Williams, for Louisiana-Pacific Corporation as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Summers & Shives, San Diego, and Robert V. Closson, for Professional Association of Specialty Contractors as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Sullivan Wertz McDade & Wallace and John S. Moot, San Diego, for Overhead Door Corporation as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Cooper, White & Cooper, Kathleen F. Carpenter, Alan H. Packer, San Francisco, and Derek A. Ridgway, Oakland, for California Building Industry Association as Amicus Curiae.

KENNARD, J.

In California, a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of a defective product is strictly liable in tort for any resulting harm to a person or to property other than the product itself. This case presents two issues: (1) Can a manufacturer of windows installed in a mass-produced home during its construction ever be strictly liable in tort for harm resulting from defects in those windows? (2) If so, is that manufacturer strictly liable in tort for resulting physical damage to other parts of the house in which the windows have been installed? We answer "yes" to both questions.

I. Facts and Proceedings

In 1988, developer McMillin Scripps II completed the Galleria and Renaissance housing developments in the Scripps Ranch area of San Diego. Viking Industries, Inc. (Viking) manufactured the windows in the Galleria development; T.M. Cobb Company (Cobb) manufactured the windows in the Renaissance development.

Plaintiffs Filipina and Nestor Jimenez, owners of one of the Galleria homes, brought this action against window manufacturers Viking and Cobb, and also against two companies (Medallion Industries, Inc., and Minnoch Supply Co.) that had supplied and installed the windows. On behalf of themselves and all homeowners in the Galleria and Renaissance developments, plaintiffs asserted that defendants had "designed, developed, manufactured, produced, supplied and placed into the stream of commerce" defective windows installed in the Galleria and Renaissance homes, and that the defects caused property damage. They alleged strict liability and negligence causes of action.

Window manufacturer Cobb moved for summary adjudication of the strict liability cause of action. Cobb argued that the manufacturer of a product installed in a mass-produced home, unless it has ownership or control over the housing development, cannot be held strictly liable to a homeowner for a defective or dangerous condition in the home. In response, plaintiffs conceded that Cobb did not own or control the Renaissance housing development, but they argued that manufacturers of component parts of mass-produced houses are strictly liable for damages caused by those component parts, including damage to other parts of the houses in which they are installed. Plaintiffs asserted that the allegedly defective windows installed in their home had damaged the "stucco, insulation, framing, drywall, paint, wall coverings, floor coverings, baseboards, and other parts of the home."

The trial court granted window manufacturer Cobb's motion for summary adjudication. The parties later stipulated, and the trial court ordered, that the ruling also applied to window manufacturer Viking. Plaintiffs petitioned the Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate.

The Court of Appeal issued a writ directing the trial court to vacate its order granting the defense motion for summary adjudication. It held that the doctrine of strict products liability applied to manufacturers of defective component parts installed in mass-produced homes, and that this strict liability extended to injuries to other parts of the house in which the defective component was installed. We granted the petitions for review of defendant window manufacturers Cobb and Viking.

II. Relevant Case Law

Nearly 60 years ago, in a concurring opinion in Escola v. Coca Cola Bottling Co. (1944) 24 Cal.2d 453, 150 P.2d 436, then Justice Roger Traynor expressed his view that a manufacturer should be liable in tort for placing on the market a defective product that causes personal injury. (Id. at p. 461, 150 P.2d 436 (cone. opn. of Traynor, J.).) Such liability, Justice Traynor reasoned, was justified because of a consumer's inability to prove that a defect was caused by a flaw in the manufacturing process, because the manufacturer is best able to reduce the risks of injury caused by product defects, and because a manufacturer can equitably distribute the loss broadly among the buying public as a cost of doing business. (Id. at pp. 462-463, 150 P.2d 436.)

Two decades later, in Greenman v. Yuba Power Products. Inc. (1963) 59 Cal.2d 57, 27 Cal.Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897 (Greenman), this court embraced Justice Traynor's view, and California became the first state to allow recovery for strict products liability. We held: "A manufacturer is strictly liable in tort when an article he places on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that causes injury to a human being." (Id. at p. 62, 27 Cal. Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897.) We explained that such liability was necessary to protect injured consumers "who are powerless to protect themselves" because the law of contractual warranties developed for commercial transactions offered no protection to those harmed by defective products. (Id. at p. 63, 27 Cal.Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897.)

The next year, in Vandermark v. Ford Motor Co. (1964) 61 Cal.2d 256, 37 Cal. Rptr. 896, 391 P.2d 168 (Vandermark), we extended strict products liability to retailers. We said: "Retailers like manufacturers are engaged in the business of distributing goods to the public. They are an integral part of the overall producing and marketing enterprise that should bear the cost of injuries resulting from defective products." (Id. at p. 262, 37 Cal.Rptr. 896,391 P.2d 168.) We reasoned: "In some cases the retailer may be the only member of that enterprise reasonably available to the injured plaintiff. In other cases the retailer himself may play a substantial part in insuring that the product is safe or may be in a position to exert pressure on the manufacturer to that end; the retailer's strict liability thus serves as an added incentive to safety. Strict liability on the manufacturer and retailer alike affords maximum protection to the injured plaintiff and works no injustice to the defendants, for they can adjust the costs of such protection between them in the course of their continuing business relationship." (Id. at pp. 262-263, 37 Cal.Rptr. 896,391 P.2d 168.) Thereafter, distributors and suppliers were also held strictly liable in tort for injuries caused by defective products. (Cronin v. J.B.E. Olson Corp. (1972) 8 Cal.3d 121, 130, 104 Cal.Rptr. 433, 501 P.2d 1153; Barth v. B.F. Goodrich Tire Co. (1968) 265 Cal.App.2d 228, 252-253, 71 Cal.Rptr. 306.)

In 1969, the Court of Appeal in Kriegler v. Eichler Homes, Inc. (1969) 269 Cal. App.2d 224, 74 Cal.Rptr. 749 applied strict products liability to mass-produced homes. There, the plaintiff homeowner successfully sued the developer of mass-produced homes in strict liability for damages caused by the failure of a radiant heating system in the home. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. It pointed out that a developer of defective mass-produced homes, like a manufacturer, retailer, or supplier of another product, is responsible for dangerous conditions in its own products and is in a better economic position to bear the resulting loss than the consumer, who justifiably relied on the developer's expertise in constructing mass-produced homes. (Id. at p. 228, 74 Cal. Rptr. 749.) The Kriegler court explained: "We think, in terms of today's society, there are no meaningful distinctions between Eichler's mass production and sale of homes and the mass production and sale of automobiles and that the pertinent overriding policy considerations are the same." (Id. at p. 227, 74 Cal.Rptr. 749.)

Thereafter, the Court of Appeal in La Jolla Village Homeowners' Assn. v. Superior Court (1989) 212 Cal.App.3d 1131, 261 Cal.Rptr. 146 (La Jolla Village) held that a subcontractor hired by a developer cannot be strictly liable for defects in...

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