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Nora Freeman Engstrom(left) and Robert L. Rabin(right) professors with Stanford Law School. Nora Freeman Engstrom(left) and Robert L. Rabin(right) professors with Stanford Law School.

California has long been a tort law leader. In the 1963 case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, the state broke new ground in imposing strict liability on manufacturers for defective products, an approach that was quickly adopted by the Second Restatement of Torts. Five years later, the state again led the way. In Dillon v. Legg, the California Supreme Court established bystander liability for emotional distress, and, the same year, in Rowland v. Christian, the court abolished the traditional landowner premises liability categories. Indeed, the list of California tort law “firsts” is long and varied, including such heavyweights as Summers v. Tice (1948), which established alternative liability, Tarasoff v. Regents of California (1976), which imposed a “duty to warn” on therapists, and Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories (1980), which established market share liability for the inter-generational harm traceable to DES, a drug marketed to pregnant women, ostensibly to prevent miscarriage.

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