Arizona Strict Liability for Defective Products

In Arizona, "strict liability is a public policy device to spread the risk from one to whom a defective product may be a catastrophe . . . to those who marketed the product, profit from its sale, and have the know-how to remove its defects before placing it in the chain of distribution." Tucson Indus., Inc. v. Schwartz, 108 Ariz. 464, 467-68, 501 P.2d 936, 939-40 (1972). Tucson Industries and other cases we refer to in this decision were decided before the enactment of A.R.S. title 12, chapter 6, article 9 in 1978. However, A.R.S. 12-682 provides: "The previously existing common law of products liability is modified only to the extent specifically stated in this article and the statute of limitations in A.R.S. 12-551." Therefore, because these cases do not conflict with article 9 or 12-551, they remain good law. As this broad policy statement suggests, the underlying justification for imposing strict liability is risk/cost spreading to those parties in the distribution chain that are best able to both bear the cost and protect the consumer from defective products. Id.; Caruth v. Mariani, 11 Ariz. App. 188, 191-92, 463 P.2d 83, 86-87 (1970). This policy was intended to protect consumers and encourage the safe design and manufacture of products. See Restatement (Second) of Torts 402A cmt. c (1965). The types of parties who may be held strictly liable are limited. These limits ensure that strict liability is not extended beyond those entities who are causally linked to the defective product by having placed it into the stream of commerce. Winsor v. Glasswerks PHX, L.L.C., 204 Ariz. 303, PP28-30, 63 P.3d 1040, 1048-49 (App. 2003). Thus, even though liability is imposed without regard to fault, liability will not be imposed on an entity that "bears no causal connection to the production or distribution of the product." Id. P 30. For this reason, A.R.S. 12-681(5) and Restatement 402A limit the application of strict liability to product manufacturers and sellers for damages resulting from defective and unreasonably dangerous products they sell. See O.S. Stapley Co. v. Miller, 103 Ariz. 556, 559-60, 447 P.2d 248, 251-52 (1968) (applying Restatement 402A to facts of case); Bailey v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 6 Ariz. App. 213, 216-17, 431 P.2d 108, 111-12 (1967) (adopting Restatement 402A's strict liability rule in Arizona). Restatement (Second) of Torts 402A (1965) provides, in pertinent part: (1) One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm thereby caused to the ultimate user or consumer, or to his property, if (a) the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and(b) it is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.