Walker v. Ford Motor Co.

In this products liability case, the issue before the Colorado Supreme Court was whether the trial court erred when it gave a jury instruction that allowed the jury to apply either the "consumer expectation test" or the "risk-benefit test" to determine whether a driver’s car seat was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did err by instructing the jury separately on the consumer expectation test, because the test already comprises an element of the risk-benefit test. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds. Previously, the Court determined the risk-benefit test was appropriate test to assess whether a product was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect where the dangerousness of the design is “defined primarily by technical, scientific information.” The consumer expectation test, by contrast, was “not suitable” in such a case. Here, the jury was tasked with determining whether a car seat was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect - a determination that, as evidenced by the extensive expert testimony at trial, required consideration of technical, scientific information. Thus, the Court surmised the proper test under which to assess the design’s dangerousness was the risk-benefit test, not the consumer expectation test. Therefore it was error for the trial court to instruct the jury on both tests, thereby allowing it to base its verdict on the consumer expectation test alone. Furthermore, the Court held that the jury’s separate finding of negligence did not render the instructional error harmless. View "Walker v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law