To address the courts' inconsistent interpretations of the WPLA's manufacturer definition, this Comment proposes applying a test that assesses manufacturer liability not only by the apparent physical changes an entity makes to a product, but also by the increased monetary value the entity adds to the product. This approach comports with the intent of the WPLA and Washington common law standards, and leads to highly predictable trial results. Part II of this Comment provides a brief history of Washington's product liability law, from early twentieth century theories of implied warranty to the mid-twentieth century adoption of the pro-consumer strict liability standards of section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Part III examines manufacturer liability in Washington after the 1981 adoption of the WPLA. Part IV analyzes the various approaches Washington courts currently use to determine manufacturer liability, specifically focusing on the contradictory outcomes of Almquist v. Finley School Dist. No. 53 and Hadley v. Spokane Produce, Inc. Part V examines an alternative approach for determining manufacturer liability found in Washburn v. Beatt Equipment Co., which uses the “relevant product” framework already present in the WPLA. Part VI proposes a workable test that resolves the inconsistencies in the approach used by the Almquist and Hadley courts by using the Washburn approach as a reference point. This proposed test, named the “value-added” test, will provide Washington courts with a consistent standard to apply when defining manufacturer liability under the WPLA. Part VII concludes by addressing potential concerns about the value-added test and its conformity with the WPLA.
Alex Ferguson, Product Liability and Food in Washington State: What Constitutes Manufacturing?, 32 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 741 (2009).