Chapter 7.72 RCW

PRODUCT LIABILITY ACTIONS

Sections
Definitions.
Scope.
Liability of manufacturer.
Liability of product seller other than manufacturerException.
Relevance of industry custom, technological feasibility, and nongovernmental, legislative or administrative regulatory standards.
Length of time product sellers are subject to liability.
Food and beverage consumption.
NOTES:
Contributory fault: Chapter 4.22 RCW.


7.72.010
Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, unless the context clearly indicates to the contrary:
(1) Product seller. "Product seller" means any person or entity that is engaged in the business of selling products, whether the sale is for resale, or for use or consumption. The term includes a manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, or retailer of the relevant product. The term also includes a party who is in the business of leasing or bailing such products. The term "product seller" does not include:
(a) A seller of real property, unless that person is engaged in the mass production and sale of standardized dwellings or is otherwise a product seller;
(b) A provider of professional services who utilizes or sells products within the legally authorized scope of the professional practice of the provider;
(c) A commercial seller of used products who resells a product after use by a consumer or other product user: PROVIDED, That when it is resold, the used product is in essentially the same condition as when it was acquired for resale;
(d) A finance lessor who is not otherwise a product seller. A "finance lessor" is one who acts in a financial capacity, who is not a manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, or retailer, and who leases a product without having a reasonable opportunity to inspect and discover defects in the product, under a lease arrangement in which the selection, possession, maintenance, and operation of the product are controlled by a person other than the lessor; and
(e) A licensed pharmacist who dispenses a prescription product manufactured by a commercial manufacturer pursuant to a prescription issued by a licensed prescribing practitioner if the claim against the pharmacist is based upon strict liability in tort or the implied warranty provisions under the uniform commercial code, Title 62A RCW, and if the pharmacist complies with recordkeeping requirements pursuant to chapters 18.64, 69.41, and 69.50 RCW, and related administrative rules as provided in RCW 7.72.040. Nothing in this subsection (1)(e) affects a pharmacist's liability under RCW 7.72.040(1).
(2) Manufacturer. "Manufacturer" includes a product seller who designs, produces, makes, fabricates, constructs, or remanufactures the relevant product or component part of a product before its sale to a user or consumer. The term also includes a product seller or entity not otherwise a manufacturer that holds itself out as a manufacturer.
A product seller acting primarily as a wholesaler, distributor, or retailer of a product may be a "manufacturer" but only to the extent that it designs, produces, makes, fabricates, constructs, or remanufactures the product for its sale. A product seller who performs minor assembly of a product in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturer shall not be deemed a manufacturer. A product seller that did not participate in the design of a product and that constructed the product in accordance with the design specifications of the claimant or another product seller shall not be deemed a manufacturer for the purposes of RCW 7.72.030(1)(a).
(3) Product. "Product" means any object possessing intrinsic value, capable of delivery either as an assembled whole or as a component part or parts, and produced for introduction into trade or commerce. Human tissue and organs, including human blood and its components, are excluded from this term.
The "relevant product" under this chapter is that product or its component part or parts, which gave rise to the product liability claim.
(4) Product liability claim. "Product liability claim" includes any claim or action brought for harm caused by the manufacture, production, making, construction, fabrication, design, formula, preparation, assembly, installation, testing, warnings, instructions, marketing, packaging, storage or labeling of the relevant product. It includes, but is not limited to, any claim or action previously based on: Strict liability in tort; negligence; breach of express or implied warranty; breach of, or failure to, discharge a duty to warn or instruct, whether negligent or innocent; misrepresentation, concealment, or nondisclosure, whether negligent or innocent; or other claim or action previously based on any other substantive legal theory except fraud, intentionally caused harm or a claim or action under the consumer protection act, chapter 19.86 RCW.
(5) Claimant. "Claimant" means a person or entity asserting a product liability claim, including a wrongful death action, and, if the claim is asserted through or on behalf of an estate, the term includes claimant's decedent. "Claimant" includes any person or entity that suffers harm. A claim may be asserted under this chapter even though the claimant did not buy the product from, or enter into any contractual relationship with, the product seller.
(6) Harm. "Harm" includes any damages recognized by the courts of this state: PROVIDED, That the term "harm" does not include direct or consequential economic loss under Title 62A RCW.
NOTES:
Preamble1981 c 27: "Tort reform in this state has for the most part been accomplished in the courts on a case-by-case basis. While this process has resulted in significant progress and the harshness of many common law doctrines has to some extent been ameliorated by decisional law, the legislature has from time to time felt it necessary to intervene to bring about needed reforms such as those contained in the 1973 comparative negligence act.
The purpose of this amendatory act is to enact further reforms in the tort law to create a fairer and more equitable distribution of liability among parties at fault.
Of particular concern is the area of tort law known as product liability law. Sharply rising premiums for product liability insurance have increased the cost of consumer and industrial goods. These increases in premiums have resulted in disincentives to industrial innovation and the development of new products. High product liability premiums may encourage product sellers and manufacturers to go without liability insurance or pass the high cost of insurance on to the consuming public in general.
It is the intent of the legislature to treat the consuming public, the product seller, the product manufacturer, and the product liability insurer in a balanced fashion in order to deal with these problems.
It is the intent of the legislature that the right of the consumer to recover for injuries sustained as a result of an unsafe product not be unduly impaired. It is further the intent of the legislature that retail businesses located primarily in the state of Washington be protected from the substantially increasing product liability insurance costs and unwarranted exposure to product liability litigation." [ 1981 c 27 § 1.]



7.72.020
Scope.

(1) The previous existing applicable law of this state on product liability is modified only to the extent set forth in this chapter.
(2) Nothing in this chapter shall prevent the recovery of direct or consequential economic loss under Title 62A RCW.



7.72.030
Liability of manufacturer.

(1) A product manufacturer is subject to liability to a claimant if the claimant's harm was proximately caused by the negligence of the manufacturer in that the product was not reasonably safe as designed or not reasonably safe because adequate warnings or instructions were not provided.
(a) A product is not reasonably safe as designed, if, at the time of manufacture, the likelihood that the product would cause the claimant's harm or similar harms, and the seriousness of those harms, outweighed the burden on the manufacturer to design a product that would have prevented those harms and the adverse effect that an alternative design that was practical and feasible would have on the usefulness of the product: PROVIDED, That a firearm or ammunition shall not be deemed defective in design on the basis that the benefits of the product do not outweigh the risk of injury posed by its potential to cause serious injury, damage, or death when discharged.
(b) A product is not reasonably safe because adequate warnings or instructions were not provided with the product, if, at the time of manufacture, the likelihood that the product would cause the claimant's harm or similar harms, and the seriousness of those harms, rendered the warnings or instructions of the manufacturer inadequate and the manufacturer could have provided the warnings or instructions which the claimant alleges would have been adequate.
(c) A product is not reasonably safe because adequate warnings or instructions were not provided after the product was manufactured where a manufacturer learned or where a reasonably prudent manufacturer should have learned about a danger connected with the product after it was manufactured. In such a case, the manufacturer is under a duty to act with regard to issuing warnings or instructions concerning the danger in the manner that a reasonably prudent manufacturer would act in the same or similar circumstances. This duty is satisfied if the manufacturer exercises reasonable care to inform product users.
(2) A product manufacturer is subject to strict liability to a claimant if the claimant's harm was proximately caused by the fact that the product was not reasonably safe in construction or not reasonably safe because it did not conform to the manufacturer's express warranty or to the implied warranties under Title 62A RCW.
(a) A product is not reasonably safe in construction if, when the product left the control of the manufacturer, the product deviated in some material way from the design specifications or performance standards of the manufacturer, or deviated in some material way from otherwise identical units of the same product line.
(b) A product does not conform to the express warranty of the manufacturer if it is made part of the basis of the bargain and relates to a material fact or facts concerning the product and the express warranty proved to be untrue.
(c) Whether or not a product conforms to an implied warranty created under Title 62A RCW shall be determined under that title.
(3) In determining whether a product was not reasonably safe under this section, the trier of fact shall consider whether the product was unsafe to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary consumer.



7.72.040
Liability of product seller other than manufacturer—Exception.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, a product seller other than a manufacturer is liable to the claimant only if the claimant's harm was proximately caused by:
(a) The negligence of such product seller; or
(b) Breach of an express warranty made by such product seller; or
(c) The intentional misrepresentation of facts about the product by such product seller or the intentional concealment of information about the product by such product seller.
(2) A product seller, other than a manufacturer, shall have the liability of a manufacturer to the claimant if:
(a) No solvent manufacturer who would be liable to the claimant is subject to service of process under the laws of the claimant's domicile or the state of Washington; or
(b) The court determines that it is highly probable that the claimant would be unable to enforce a judgment against any manufacturer; or
(c) The product seller is a controlled subsidiary of a manufacturer, or the manufacturer is a controlled subsidiary of the product seller; or
(d) The product seller provided the plans or specifications for the manufacture or preparation of the product and such plans or specifications were a proximate cause of the defect in the product; or
(e) The product was marketed under a trade name or brand name of the product seller.
(3) Subsection (2) of this section does not apply to a pharmacist who dispenses a prescription product in the form manufactured by a commercial manufacturer pursuant to a prescription issued by a licensed practitioner if the pharmacist complies with recordkeeping requirements pursuant to chapters 18.64, 69.41, and 69.50 RCW, and related administrative rules.



7.72.050
Relevance of industry custom, technological feasibility, and nongovernmental, legislative or administrative regulatory standards.

(1) Evidence of custom in the product seller's industry, technological feasibility or that the product was or was not, in compliance with nongovernmental standards or with legislative regulatory standards or administrative regulatory standards, whether relating to design, construction or performance of the product or to warnings or instructions as to its use may be considered by the trier of fact.
(2) When the injury-causing aspect of the product was, at the time of manufacture, in compliance with a specific mandatory government contract specification relating to design or warnings, this compliance shall be an absolute defense. When the injury-causing aspect of the product was not, at the time of manufacture, in compliance with a specific mandatory government specification relating to design or warnings, the product shall be deemed not reasonably safe under RCW 7.72.030(1).



7.72.060
Length of time product sellers are subject to liability.

(1) Useful safe life. (a) Except as provided in subsection (1)(b) hereof, a product seller shall not be subject to liability to a claimant for harm under this chapter if the product seller proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the harm was caused after the product's "useful safe life" had expired.
"Useful safe life" begins at the time of delivery of the product and extends for the time during which the product would normally be likely to perform or be stored in a safe manner. For the purposes of this chapter, "time of delivery" means the time of delivery of a product to its first purchaser or lessee who was not engaged in the business of either selling such products or using them as component parts of another product to be sold. In the case of a product which has been remanufactured by a manufacturer, "time of delivery" means the time of delivery of the remanufactured product to its first purchaser or lessee who was not engaged in the business of either selling such products or using them as component parts of another product to be sold.
(b) A product seller may be subject to liability for harm caused by a product used beyond its useful safe life, if:
(i) The product seller has warranted that the product may be utilized safely for such longer period; or
(ii) The product seller intentionally misrepresents facts about its product, or intentionally conceals information about it, and that conduct was a proximate cause of the claimant's harm; or
(iii) The harm was caused by exposure to a defective product, which exposure first occurred within the useful safe life of the product, even though the harm did not manifest itself until after the useful safe life had expired.
(2) Presumption regarding useful safe life. If the harm was caused more than twelve years after the time of delivery, a presumption arises that the harm was caused after the useful safe life had expired. This presumption may only be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence.
(3) Statute of limitation. Subject to the applicable provisions of chapter 4.16 RCW pertaining to the tolling and extension of any statute of limitation, no claim under this chapter may be brought more than three years from the time the claimant discovered or in the exercise of due diligence should have discovered the harm and its cause.



7.72.070
Food and beverage consumption.

(1) Any manufacturer, packer, distributor, carrier, holder, marketer, or seller of a food or nonalcoholic beverage intended for human consumption, or an association of one or more such entities, shall not be subject to civil liability in an action brought by a private party based on an individual's purchase or consumption of food or nonalcoholic beverages in cases where liability is premised upon the individual's weight gain, obesity, or a health condition associated with the individual's weight gain or obesity and resulting from the individual's long-term purchase or consumption of a food or nonalcoholic beverage.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the term "long-term consumption" means the cumulative effect of the consumption of food or nonalcoholic beverages, and not the effect of a single instance of consumption.
NOTES:
Short title2004 c 139: "This act may be cited as the commonsense consumption act." [ 2004 c 139 § 2.]
Site Contents
Selected content listed in alphabetical order under each group