That home is a product

Colin McCarthy

Published on December 26, 2012

One of my favorite movies of all time (I have a lot of them), Die Hard, has many great lines which I

like to quote. Frequently it’s the “yippee-ki-yay” line, usually right as I am about to win a case. Sometimes it’s “What were you doing with the detonators, Hans?” for no real reason. I also like “You asked for miracles? I give you the F. (pause) B. (pause) I.” But one of my favorite lines and the one that gets the ball rolling on all of the above is in the opening scene, when our hero arrives at the airport in L.A., and sees a California girl act silly and leap into the arms of her man. Bruce simply says with a shake of the head: “California.”

Die Hard Building

He is so right. California is a great place, but sometimes it does merit the odd shake of the head. Here is an example: Did you know that for purposes of strict products liability, a residential dwelling that injures is considered a “product,” provided it meets certain requirements? Strict products liability makes it even easier to find liability against defendants for injuries by eliminating certain proof requirements. So it’s easier to sue a “product” manufacturer for injuries than under other circumstances.

In some cases, it will be easier in California to sue a home builder for injuries brought about by things in the home on this strict products liability theory. Fortunately for the smaller-end builder, it usually does not apply. It applies to the large-scale residential home developer. It typically will not apply to the builder who does an occasional home build and sells. The idea is that the large-scale developer is presenting itself as a leader in building homes and has expertise and skill on which the home buyer is relying. That is not the case with the person who builds homes on a more isolated basis. It is also not the case with the subcontractors working for the large-scale home developers.

The subcontractors also do not make a “product” per se but provide a service, whereas the developer of large-scale residential developments is placing “products” of individual residential units into the stream of commerce. If they injure, say by a bad design, the entity that places that “product” into the stream of commerce will be liable.

Which begs the totally unrelated question: Do you think Bruce Willis’ character totally got sued for all the property damage he caused at Nakatomi Tower? Maybe not, but if I were him I would have sued that TV reporter for invasion of privacy …

This blog submission is only for purposes of disseminating information. It does not constitute legal advice. The statements in this blog submissions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Robinson & Wood, Inc. or its clients. No attorney-client relationship is formed by virtue of reading this blog entry or submitting a comment thereto. If you need legal advice, please hire a licensed attorney in your state.

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Colin McCarthy

Colin G. McCarthy is a partner in the business litigation, products liability, and insurance practice groups at Robinson & Wood in San Jose, California.

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