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June 2016

Gordon & Rees Oakland Partner Interviewed on "Sophisticated Intermediary" Defense

Gordon & Rees Oakland partner and chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group Don Willenburg was interviewed twice by the Daily Journal, one of California’s premier legal publications, about a key new California Supreme Court product liability decision, Webb v. Special Electric Co. He was first interviewed for and quoted in the Daily Journal’s story on the decision, and thereafter interviewed on its podcast, “Weekly Appellate Report.”

The decision marked the California Supreme Court’s formal adoption of the “sophisticated intermediary” defense. Under that defense, someone who supplies a hazardous or defective product to a purchaser that is knowledgeable about the risks may discharge any duty to warn ultimate end-users. The court ruled that the defense did not apply to a defendant that sold raw asbestos to behemoth Johns-Manville.

In the podcast, Willenburg describes the decision, the contours of this defense, and ways in which suppliers might both improve their chances of prevailing on the defense and proactively protect themselves given its limitations.

Willenburg’s podcast interview first aired on May 27 can be heard on the Daily Journal’s website. By listening to the podcast and taking a short test, participants can earn one hour of CLE credits. For more details on the Webb decision, view the related post on Gordon & Rees's "Environmental & Toxic Tort Defense Insight" blog.


Don Willenburg