Consumer Expectations Test California

The Scope of the Consumer Expectations Test: In Barker v. Lull Engineering Co., supra, 20 Cal.3d 413, the California Supreme Court approved both the risk-benefit analysis and the consumer expectations test as independent bases for determining whether a product contains a design defect. (Id. at p. 432.) Since Barker, the Supreme Court has stated that (1) the consumer expectations test is not to be used in every design defect case and (2) the line that marks the limit for application of the consumer expectations test cannot be drawn clearly because of the wide variety of potential product injuries. (Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 568.) In Soule, the Supreme Court described the circumstances in which the consumer expectations test is appropriate in a number of ways. First, "the consumer expectations test is reserved for cases in which the everyday experience of the product's users permits a conclusion that the product's design violated minimum safety assumptions ...." (Soule, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 567.) Second, a jury should not be instructed on the consumer expectations test "unless the facts actually permit an inference that the product's performance did not meet the minimum safety expectations of its ordinary users ...." (Soule, at p. 568.) Third, "the crucial question in each individual case is whether the circumstances of the product's failure permit an inference that the product's design performed below the legitimate, commonly accepted minimum safety assumptions of its ordinary consumers." (Id. at pp. 568-569.)