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Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois Inc.

California Supreme Court
941 P.2d 1203 (1997)


The jury in a consolidated action for asbestos-related personal injuries was given a burden-shifting instruction during the liability phase of the trial. The instruction shifted the burden of proof from Rutherford, the injured worker, (plaintiff) to Owens-Illinois Inc. (Owens) (defendant) to prove that Owens’s asbestos products were not a legal cause of Rutherford’s asbestos-related injuries, if Rutherford first established that Owens manufactured or sold defective asbestos-containing products to which Rutherford was exposed, and that Rutherford’s exposure to asbestos fibers generally was a legal cause of Rutherford’s injury. Owens appealed, and the court of appeal found that the trial court erred in giving the burden-shifting instruction and that the judgment should be reversed. Rutherford appealed and argued that the trial court did not err in giving the burden-shifting instruction.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Baxter, J.)

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