United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Torts — strict product liability
To prove strict product liability, a plaintiff need only show that the product was a cause of injury.
“The district court also suggested that Dr. Gore’s opinion was unreliable because he failed to rule out other potential causes of Schultz’s AML, including Schultz’s weight and smoking history. While the district court’s decision rather curiously says nothing about the legal standard for Schultz’s toxic tort claim, we presume that Wisconsin law applies. (The court was exercising diversity jurisdiction on the ground that some of the events took place in Wisconsin, and the default rule is to apply the law of the state where the district court sits unless the parties contend otherwise, which they have not done here.) In Wisconsin, a strict products liability action requires a plaintiff to show that the product “was a cause (a substantial factor) of the plaintiff’s injuries or damages.” Zielinski v. A.P. Green Indus., Inc., 661 N.W.2d 491, 494 (Wis. Ct. App. 2003) (quoting Cook v. Gran-Aire, Inc., 513 N.W.2d 652, 654 (Wis. Ct. App. 1994)). In order to show that a toxin is ‘a cause’ or ‘a substantial factor,’ Schultz was not required to demonstrate that benzene exposure was the sole cause of his disease, so long as he showed that benzene contributed substantially to the disease’s development or significantly increased his risk of developing AML.”
Affirmed in part, and Reversed in part.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Randa, J., Wood, J.