California Tobacco Manufacturers Immunity from Smoking Damages

In American Tobacco Co. v. Superior Court (1989), 208 Cal. App. 3d 480, Division Two of this court held that former section 1714.45 barred actions by several plaintiffs for damages due to injuries or death allegedly resulting from use of tobacco products. The court described the statute as poorly drafted, amenable to diametrically opposed interpretations, and if read literally, internally inconsistent. (American Tobacco, supra, at pp. 485, 489.) Nevertheless, the court concluded from the limited legislative history available that the statute was intended to provide automatic and nearly complete immunity for the manufacturers of the named products, including tobacco. (208 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 486-487.) Rejecting a claim that consumers cannot fully appreciate the risks involved in smoking because manufacturers do not reveal all the additives in cigarettes, the court explained, "To be covered by this statute it is sufficient that the ordinary consumer knows the product is 'unsafe.' " (208 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 489-490, fn. 5.)