Suppliers Duty to Protect from Injuries Caused by By the Product
Does a Supplier Owe Duty to Protect An Individual Who Is Injured by a Product to Which Substantial Changes Have been Made by An Intermediate Party ?
In Walker v. Stauffer Chemical Corp. (1971) 19 Cal. App. 3d 669, 96 Cal. Rptr. 803 the plaintiff was injured when a drain cleaner, composed of 50 percent sulfuric acid and 50 percent alkaline base, exploded.
Among others, the plaintiff sued the supplier of the sulfuric acid.
The court held that, in light of the substantial changes made to the sulfuric acid by the maker of the drain cleaner, the sulfuric acid supplier owed no duty to protect the plaintiff.
In doing so, the court relied on the Restatement with respect to strict liability:
'"In the absence of decisions providing a clue to the rules which are likely to develop, the Institute has refrained from taking any position as to the possible liability of the seller where the product is expected to, and does, undergo further processing or other substantial change after it leaves his hands and before it reaches those of the ultimate user or consumer.
"'". . . the question is essentially one of whether the responsibility for discovery and prevention of the dangerous defect is shifted to the intermediate party who is to make the changes.
No doubt there will be some situations, and some defects, as to which the responsibility will be shifted, and others in which it will not."' (Walker, supra, 19 Cal. App. 3d at p. 673, quoting of Rest.2d Torts, 402A, com. p, at p. 357.)
The court in Walker went on to state:
'We do not believe it realistically feasible or necessary to the protection of the public to require the manufacturer and supplier of a standard chemical ingredient such as bulk sulfuric acid, not having control over the subsequent compounding, packaging or marketing of an item eventually causing injury to the ultimate consumer, to bear the responsibility for that injury.
The manufacturer (seller) of the product causing the injury is so situated as to afford the necessary protection.' (19 Cal. App. 3d at p. 674.)