Defect In Design or Manufacture of a Car Lawsuit In California

In Gherna v. Ford Motor Co., supra, 246 Cal. App. 2d 639, the product was an automobile in which defective design or manufacture (relating to wiring or placement of the transmission dipstick next to the exhaust manifold) caused a fire, destroying the vehicle. The court did not suggest the product had injured only itself, thus rendering the loss purely economic. Rather, it found the law "settled that the doctrine of strict liability applies to physical harm to person or property." (Id. at p. 649, italics added.) Anthony v. Kelsey-Hayes Co. (1972) 25 Cal. App. 3d 442 [102 Cal. Rptr. 113] expands the analysis. the Anthony plaintiffs did not seek damages arising out of any personal injury to themselves or any physical damage to their vehicles attributable to the wheels they contended were defective. ( Id. at p. 445.) Rather, they sought recovery for "(1) general depreciation in the value of the vehicles," which the court categorized as "loss of bargain," "(2) cost of inspections, repairs, and replacements" of the wheels themselves, and "(3) loss of use prior to and during inspections and repairs." (Id. at p. 446.) Any issue as to the second item was moot because the plaintiffs had accepted new wheels from the vehicle manufacturer. (Ibid.) In regard to the third claim, the Anthony court observed, "Loss of use is an item of incidental damage. It appears appropriate, therefore, to characterize it according to the nature of the damage of which it is an incident. Unless incidental to physical property damage, it would appear that it may be properly classified as a type of economic loss." (Ibid., italics added.) Harkening to Seely's call, it concluded neither depreciation ("definitely a complaint that the trucks with defective wheels were not of the quality bargained for"), nor loss of use could be recovered under strict liability because the plaintiffs did not claim either item was caused by physical property damage. (Id. at p. 447.)