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The Sophisticated User Defense

On April 16, 2009 by Schnader

Saul Wilensky joined the Honorable Ming W. Chin, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, to present “The Sophisticated User Defense” at the Defense Research Institute’s (DRI) Product Liability Conference, held on April 16, 2009 in San Diego, California.  

Mr. Wilensky and Justice Chin spoke about recent trends in product liability law that have swung sharply in the manufacturer’s favor, with decisions affirming the viability of defenses that may limit the pool of plaintiffs able to sustain a claim in product liability. In addition, they discussed differences between the sophisticated user defense and the obvious danger rule.

The presentation also examined the case of Johnson v. American Standard, Inc. In Johnson, the California Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Chin, established the sophisticated user doctrine for California. This doctrine says that there is no duty to warn of danger in using a product when the ultimate user or party at risk of injury has special knowledge, sophistication, or expertise in relation to the product. Twenty-nine states have now adopted this defense in one form or another.