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Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts

Abstract

As consumer technology becomes increasingly complex, so too does the manufacturer’s task in assessing the scope of its duty to warn of potential dangers. A recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Rosa v. Taser International, Inc., offers a prime illustration of this challenge through its analysis of a hazard posed by Taser weaponry. The Rosa court highlights a point of uncertainty in this area of law: courts typically determine which hazards were knowable at the time of manufacture as a matter of law, but they sometimes do so in the absence of a comprehensive standard. This Article evaluates the Ninth Circuit’s approach as a potential model for other courts. After a brief survey of U.S. products liability law pertaining to the “knowability” requirement, this Article analyzes the Rosa decision. Although the Rosa court bemoans the absence of a comprehensive standard for making this determination in California, the court’s reasoning implicitly suggests a three-part test that could serve as a model in California and elsewhere. Such a standard would reduce the legal uncertainty faced by manufacturers assessing the extent of their duty and by plaintiffs assessing the strength of their claims.

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