PRODUCTS LIABILITY--Application of Strict Liability to the Independent Contractor Who Conforms to the Plans and Specifications of a Nongovernmental Purchaser: Michalko v. Cooke Color & Chem. Corp

Shubatt, Jacqueline
September 1983
Journal of Corporation Law;Fall83, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p113
Academic Journal
Under the tort law doctrine of products liability a manufacturer may be held strictly liable not only for its failure to install safety devices on dangerous products, but also for its failure to warn of the danger which exists. In some cases the manufacturer may be an independent contractor that has contracted with a purchaser that provided plans and specifications for the independent contractor. Courts are split on the question whether strict liability should be extended to the independent contractor when those plans and specifications do not provide for the incorporation of safety devices and the independent contractor does not add them to the product. Recently, however, in Michalko v. Cooke Color & Chem. Corp., the New Jersey Supreme Court extended strict liability to that group of defendants. Because the New Jersey Supreme Court has always been at the forefront of the development of the strict liability doctrine, Michalko may signal a movement toward the resolution of the current split of authority. This article analyzes why the extension of strict liability to independent contractors constitutes the better approach. First, the nature of strict liability and the movement toward extending strict liability to independent contractors will be discussed. Second, the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Michalko will be examined. Third, an analysis of the reasoning of Michalko and the other cases which have dealt with the issue will be presented, along with a discussion of how the public policy justifications for strict liability support its extension in this area.


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