South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Iowa Adopts Restatement (Third) of Tort Standard for Product Defect Cases
Description Iowa high court announced that the state adopted the Restatement (Third) of Tort standard for product liability cases, which means there is no longer a distinction between strict liability and negligence in such cases, which will focus on the nature of the defect or failure to warn.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability; Defect; Failure to Warn; Warranty; Cigarettes
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A cigarette smoker sued cigarette makers in federal court for personal injuries he suffered from smoking. The court certified several questions to the Iowa high court to clarify the status of Iowa product liability law. The answers to the questions are the subject of the decision.
Decision

Iowa applies the risk-utility analysis presented in the Restatement (Third) of Torts. Such a claim is based on a design defect claim without reference to strict liability or negligence. A plaintiff must prove the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the adoption of a reasonable alternative design. "A plaintiff may not recover from a cigarette manufacturer under a manufacturing defect theory when the cigarettes smoked by the plaintiff were in the condition intended by the manufacturer." A manufacturer's failure to warn or to disclose material information does not give rise to a fraud claim when the relationship between a plaintiff and a defendant is only that of a customer/buyer, unless the manufacturer has made misleading statements intended to influence consumers. Statements by the cigarette companies that they would report on the results of their research on the health effects of smoking was not a service to their customers that gave rise to liability for breach of duty to inform the public of known risks of their products. Warranty claims under UCC's warranty rules will have the same standard applied to them as applies in cases under tort law.

Citation Wright v. Brooke Group Ltd., 652 N.W.2d 159 (Sup. Ct., Iowa, 2002)

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