Document Type

Article

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Riding the Tide Toward Modern Tort Law: William Prosser's "The Assault upon the Citadel (Strict Liability to the Consumer)", 100 Yale L.J. 1470 (1991)

Abstract

It should not be surprising that Prosser's Assault upon the Citadel is among the most frequently cited articles in The Yale Law Journal. Prosser's article at once predicted, justified, and outlined the implementation of the shift from warranty law to strict liability for product defects which, along with Brown v. Board of Education, constitutes one of the two most sudden and momentous changes in our legal regime of the past century.

Prosser's article became heavily cited, however, not because its ideas were influential, nor, surely, because it initiated a school of thought. Assault upon the Citadel is hard to distinguish in content from an assortment of articles published in the late-1950s criticizing the regime of warranty law for consumer products and urging that the nearly uniform adoption of automatic liability for food poisoning be extended to other consumer goods. Rather, Prosser's article became central because, of the assortment of articles floating above the legal surface at the time, Assault upon the Citadel was perfectly positioned to catch the wave of enthusiasm for greater manufacturer liability. Prosser's article condemning warranty law and proposing automatic consumer recovery for product defects was published almost simultaneously with the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors, Inc., invalidating warranty law and providing for automatic consumer recovery for product defects. Shortly thereafter, Assault upon the Citadel was propelled even further by the decision of the California Supreme Court in Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc., defining a new standard of strict tort liability for defective products which Prosser, though not the New Jersey Supreme Court, had recommended.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1991

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