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Jae Kim v. Toyota Motor Corporation

424 P.3d 290 (2018)

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Jae Kim v. Toyota Motor Corporation

California Supreme Court

424 P.3d 290 (2018)

Facts

William Jae Kim (plaintiff) was severely injured after he lost control of his 2005 Toyota Tundra truck and ran off the road. William and his wife (plaintiff) filed a strict-products-liability lawsuit in state court against Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) (defendant), arguing that Toyota should be held liable for failing to include vehicle stability control as a standard feature in all its vehicles. In 2005 vehicle stability control was an optional feature that cost an extra $300. William’s truck did not have vehicle stability control, and the Kims believed that the feature would have prevented his accident. Before trial, the Kims filed a motion in limine asking the court to bar evidence that Toyota’s design choices were standard in the industry. The trial court denied the motion. At trial, the Kims presented evidence that vehicle stability control would have prevented the accident. Toyota presented evidence that none of its competitors included vehicle stability control as a standard feature in their vehicles and argued that its Tundra customers were not interested in vehicle stability control. A witness testified that Toyota’s decision not to include vehicle stability control as a standard feature conformed with industry custom. The jury was instructed on the risk-benefit theory of strict products liability, which weighed the safety risks and benefits of a certain product design to determine whether a design was defective. The jury was not given a limiting instruction explaining that Toyota’s industry-custom evidence could not be used to prove that its design was not defective. The jury found that the 2005 Toyota Tundra did not have a design defect. The Kims moved for a new trial, arguing that the trial court improperly allowed Toyota to present evidence of industry custom. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeal affirmed. The Kims appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kruger, J.)

Concurrence (Dato, J.)

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