Dart v. Wiebe Manufacturing, Inc

In Dart v. Wiebe Manufacturing, Inc, 147 Ariz. 242, 709 P.2d 876 (1985), the plaintiff sued the manufacturer of an industrial paper shredder after he was seriously injured by a shredding machine. Id. at 243, 709 P.2d at 877. The plaintiff alleged that the shredder was defectively designed because it lacked safety guards that would have prevented the injury. Id. The trial court gave the jury a single instruction regarding the plaintiff's separate theories of negligence and strict liability. Id. The Arizona Supreme Court reversed, ruling that in order to preserve the difference between negligence and strict liability theories, the applicable standard for each claim must be different. Id. The court wrote that to prove negligence, a plaintiff must prove that the manufacturer acted unreasonably at the time of manufacture or design of the product. Id. at 247, 709 P.2d at 881. However, in a strict liability analysis, "it is not the conduct of the manufacturer or designer which is primarily in question, but rather the quality of the end result; the product is the focus of the inquiry." Id. The court thus held that with regard to the plaintiff's claim for strict liability, the jury should have been instructed that the "quality of the product may be measured not only by the information available to the manufacturer at the time of design, but also by the information available to the trier of fact at the time of trial." Id. The Arizona Supreme Court did not extend this holding to failure to warn cases, and, in fact, expressly declined to reach the issue whether a hindsight test should be applied in strict liability cases involving the failure to warn or those involving inherently dangerous products. Id. at 247 n.2, 709 P.2d at 881 n.2, ("We do not reach the issue of whether a 'hindsight test' is to be applied to strict liability cases involving failure to warn or those involving unavoidably unsafe products.").