September 21, 2016 Articles

California Adopts the Sophisticated Intermediary Doctrine but Refuses to Apply It

By W. Clay Massey and Ronnie A. Gosselin

On May 23, 2016, the California Supreme Court adopted the sophisticated intermediary doctrine in toxic tort matters. In Webb v. Special Electric Co., Inc., 2016 WL 2956882 (Cal. May 23, 2016), the court recognized this affirmative defense to failure-to-warn claims for suppliers of raw materials, where a plaintiff claims injury from the supplier’s raw material as a component part of a finished product manufactured by a third party. Specifically, the court confirmed that a supplier may discharge its duty to warn the final end user of a product that incorporates the supplier’s raw material if the supplier (1) provides adequate warnings or sells to a sufficiently sophisticated buyer and (2) reasonably relies on the buyer to warn end users of the risk of harm. Id. at *9.

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