In 1963 the Supreme Court of California revolutionized the law of torts by adopting the theory of strict liability in products liability cases.' The American Law Institute subsequently promulgated section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts in 1965. Section 402A provides that the seller of a "product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous" may be held liable even though he has "exercised all possible care."' Today, nearly every state has adopted some form of section 402A.' Moreover, the list of modern products to which section 402A applies is virtually limitless. Yet, despite the unprecedented expansion of strict liability into new product areas and industries, courts still must grapple with defining the limits of section 402A in certain unique factual situations. The increasing variety and complexity of manufactured items have created problems for courts;6 some items do not fall neatly within the label of "product."
Recently, courts have had to decide whether the content of an article of property used to transmit information constitutes a product for section 402A purposes. Some courts have applied strict liability to publications that contain erroneous information which has caused injury to plaintiffs.' These courts argue that the underlying policy justifications for strict liability compel this application.' Other courts have refused to extend the doctrine of strict liability to cover "defective" ideas and words in a publication." These courts contend that strict liability only applies to the tangible properties of publications, not the words and thoughts contained within the publication. Because the physical properties of a book contain no inherent danger, strict liability arguably is not applicable.""
This Note explores the issue of whether strict liability is appropriate for defective ideas in publications. Part II examines the development of strict liability and the underlying policy justifications for the doctrine. Part III analyzes cases that have considered the applicability of strict liability to various publications. Part IV examines the implications of imposing strict liability on publications. Finally, Part V concludes that strict liability should not be applied to publications that contain defective ideas.
Andrew T. Bayman,
Strict Liability for Defective Ideas in Publications,
42 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol42/iss2/5