Strictly About Risks and Benefits

Colorado Supreme Court rules on use of consumer expectation test in Walker v. Ford Motor Co.

The Colorado Supreme Court issued a decision Nov. 13 that both upholds its previous precedents in products liability law and sets a new one stipulating arguments for claims of both strict liability for design defects and negligence need to turn on the same analysis. In Walker v. Ford Motor Co., the court affirmed a prior decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals that the trial court in the underlying case erred when allowing the jury to apply either the consumer expectation or risk-benefit test in determining whether the design of a car seat made it unreasonably dangerous.

In the underlying case, a jury returned a verdict on claims of strict liability and negligence in favor of Forrest Walker, who claimed he was injured in a car accident in part because Ford defectively designed the seat in his 1998 Ford Explorer and that it was unreasonably dangerous.

Ford appealed, and the Court of Appeals ruled the trial court erred in instructing the jury separately on the consumer expectation test because the consumer expectation test comprises one element of the risk-benefit analysis.

The Supreme Court determined the risk-benefit test was the appropriate analysis to use in assessing the car seat’s dangerousness and affirmed that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on both tests. The Supreme Court also ruled the separate finding of negligence did not render the instructional error harmless and remanded the case.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the November 20, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.