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Smith v. Alza Corporation

400 N.J. Super. 529, 948 A.2d 686 (App. Div. 2008)

PRODUCT LIABILITY; MANUFACTURERS — Under the New Jersey Product Liability Act, the definition of a manufacturer, as a potentially liable party in a product liability action, can include a packager of any product or component of a product.

An Alabama consumer suffered a stroke that he alleged was due to his taking an over-the-counter diet drug packaged by a New Jersey company. The consumer filed suit in New Jersey on a products liability theory. The lower court dismissed the complaint, finding that the packager qualified for seller immunity because it did not exert sufficient control over the manufacture of the product to hold it strictly liable. The consumer appealed.

The Appellate Division reversed and remanded, finding that the packager was a manufacturer rather than a “product seller” of the drug under the product seller immunity provisions of the New Jersey Product Liability Act. (PLA) The Court found it clear that, under the PLA, the definition of a manufacturer, as a potentially liable party in a product liability action, could include a packager of any product or component of a product. The Court found that this packaging company was far from innocent under the PLA, having packaged, labeled, and shipped the product in bulk to distribution centers for ultimate sale. The Court also established that New Jersey had a greater interest than Alabama in governing the issue because of New Jersey’s policy of deterrence to discourage New Jersey companies from manufacturing and distributing unsafe products.


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