Wright v. Stang Manufacturing Co

In Wright v. Stang Manufacturing Co. (1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 1218, defendants sought to defeat a products liability claim by making "a great deal out of the fact that plaintiffs responded 'Undisputed' to a separate statement of fact ... ." (Wright, supra, 54 Cal.App.4th at p. 1224, fn. 2.) On appeal, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs' failure to contest a statement of undisputed fact amounted to a judicial admission that the product was not defective. (Id. at p. 1225.) The Court of Appeal rejected the defendant's argument, holding that the defendants "failed to establish that plaintiffs' response to their separate statement of undisputed facts should have been accorded the same effect as a judicial admission in a pleading." (Ibid.) The Wright court held that separate statements of undisputed facts in support of a motion for summary judgment or adjudication make no binding judicial admissions. (Ibid.; Code Civ. Proc., 422.10.) In sum, in Wright v. Stang Manufacturing Co., the defendant manufactured a water cannon that had been mounted on a fire engine. When the plaintiff, a firefighter, used the water cannon, it broke loose, threw him to the ground, and fell on him. (Ibid.) The defendant obtained summary judgment on the plaintiff's strict liability claim on the theory that the cannon's mount, rather than the cannon itself, was defective. (Id. at pp. 1222-1223.) In reversing the summary judgment, the appellate court concluded that there were triable issues whether the cannon suffered from a design defect because it was incompatible with a sufficiently strong mounting system; in addition, the court determined that there were triable issues whether the defendant had failed to warn about a potential mismatch between the cannon's water pressure and the strength of its mount. (Id. at p. 1236.)