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MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co.
MacPherson was injured when he was thrown from his car after one of the wheels, purchased from various suppliers, made of defective wood, crumbled and the car collapsed. MacPherson was thrown out the car and injured. There was evidence that the defects could have been discovered if Buick had performed a reasonable inspection.
Px: Appeal from the judgment of the Appellate Division, affirming a judgment of the Supreme Court for the plaintiff.
Q/P: Does a manufacturer owe a duty of care and vigilance to anyone other than the immediate purchaser of a product?
Rule: Yes. When there is an element of probable danger with a product, the manufacturer is under a duty to make it carefully.
Cardozo: If the nature of a thing is such that it is reasonably certain to place life and limb in peril when negligently made, it is then a thing of danger.
Court left it to the jury to decide whether Buick should have foreseen that the car, if negligently constructed, would become dangerous. If danger was to be expected
Baxter v. Ford Motor Co.
F: Baxter purchased a Ford ar from St. John Motors, who got the car from Ford's catalogues, given to Baxter prior to sale. The catalogue represented that the car had shatter-proof glass in the windshield. Baxter was injured when a pebble struck and shattered the window, causing glass to hit his eyes. Baxter lost sight in his left eye and the right eye was injured.
Px: Trial court refused to admit evidence of Ford's printed warranty. Court took the case from the jury and entered judgment for St. John and Ford. Baxter appealed.
Q/P: Can a tort action be maintained for breach of an express warranty, even when there is no privity of contract between the injured party and the warranting party?
- Holding: Yes. A tort action can be maintained for breach of an express warranty, even when there is no privity of contract between the injured party and the warranty party.
- Rule: No privity is required for recovery based on breach of express warranty.
Reasoning: Baxter reasonably relied upon Ford's printed warranty. He wasn't in a position to discover by reasonable investigation about the shatter-proof glass in the windshield.
Mazetti Rule: The original act of delivering the product is wrong when, because a product lacks certain qualities that the manufacturer had warranted, the article is not safe for ordinary use.
Almost every cause of action for strict liability maintains a negligent count.
More Plaintiffs prefer to take their cases to a jury under negligence rather than product liability. Why? B/C it may be easier to persuade a jury that harm was caused to a person rather than the technical aspects of demonstrating a defective product.
Mazetti v. Armour & Co.
A restaurant keeper could recover damage to his business when a customer was served defective canned food manufactured by the defendant.
A traditional doctrine that the purchaser of goods has no recourse against the seller for defects
Privity of Contract
A relationship between persons who contract, such as between a buyer and seller of goods, that imposes duties and liabilities upon the contracting parties.
Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors, Inc.
F: An automobile purchaser sued the dealer and manufacturer for breach of an implied warranty of merchantability, although the express contractual terms of the sale disclaimed all implied warranties.
Woman injured by a car purchased for her by her husband. Injury occurred a few years later. Purchaser signed a contract that had a warranty clause which disclaimed all implied warranties and granted an express warranty for all defects within 90 days or 4000 miles, whichever came first.
P sued the seller and manufacturer. Trial court dismissed the negligence claim but ruled for P based on implied warranty of merchantability. D's appeal.
Q/P: Does a contract of adhesion trump statutory implied warranties of merchantability?
H: No. A contract of adhesion does not trump statutory implied warranties of merchantability
Rule: Implied warranties of merchantability survive express contractual provisions to the contrary.
Reasoning: In car industry implied warranty is a contract of adhesion b/c he must "take it or leave it" b/c all dealers use the same standard contract.
Contract of Adhesion
A contract between parties of unequal bargaining position, where the buyer must "take it or leave it."
Implied Warranty of Merchantability
A warranty that means that the thing sold must be reasonably fit for the general purpose for which it is manufactured and sold.
Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc.
F: A woodworker sued, under theories of negligence and breach of warranty, for injuries caused by a defective power lathe.
Greenman watched a demonstration of a power tool and studied the manufacturer's brochure. Wife gave him the tool as a gift. While properly using the tool, wood flew out of the machine and struck him. Almost a year later, he sued the manufacturer and retailer.
Trial court jury returned verdict for the retailer but against the manufacturer. Court denied manufacturer's motion for new trial. Manufacturer appealed.
Q/P: Is a manufacturer strictly liable when an article he places on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that causes injury?
H: Yes. A manufacturer is strictly liable when an article he places on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that causes injury.
Elements of (Strict) Products Liability
1. Defective Product
2. Use of the product in the manner it was intended to be used
3. Injury as a result of use
4. Knowledge by the manufacturer that the product was to be used without inspection for defects
See Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc.
Rix v. General Motors Corp.
F: An injured driver sued a manufacturer for defectively designing and/or manufacturing a truck, which caused injury when its brake system failed and it rear-ended the injured party's vehicle.
Rule: Sellers are strictly liable for manufacturing defects that reach the consumer without substantial change in the defective condition.
Product Liability in Tort
The manufacturer of any product capable of serious harm if negligently made, owes a duty of care in design, inspection, and fabrication of the product
Who may recover damages from the manufacturer or intermediate seller in a torts product liability case?
A buyer, user, consumer, or bystander in proximity to an unreasonably dangerous product, and who is injured in person or in property by its dangerous propensities
Strict Torts Products Liability
A manufacturer is strictly liable in tort when an article he places on the market, knowing that it will be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that causes injury to a human being.
Strict Torts Liability
402(A) proposes strict liability in tort for any person who sells a product in a defective condition UNREASONABLY DANGEROUS to the user or consumer or his property
402A - Defendant Requirements
D must be a seller of such products in ordinary course, although a growing number of courts have extended the strict liability cause of action to businesses who's position in the stream of commerce resembles that of a product seller in terms of expertise and ability to detect the correct hazards
402A - Reasonably Dangerous Condition
Most courts require that the product be in both a defective condition AND unreasonably dangerous
A product that is merely defective, but creates no hazard of danger, is the proper concern for warranty law, but NOT in tort
Products whose inherent characteristics make them dangerous are not to be considered unreasonably dangerous
402A - Consumer Expectations Standard for an Unreasonable Dangerous Condition
Evaluation of what is unreasonable dangerous should be had by reference to whether the article sold is dangerous to an extent beyond which would be contemplated by the ordinary consumer who purchases it, with the ordinary knowledge common to the community as to its characteristics
402A - Necessity for Showing a Defect
P must establish that the product was defective, and that the defect was a substantial factor in bringing about P's harm. Focus is on the condition of the product, and not the conduct of the manufacturer.
- Liability will apply even when seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of his product
- 1. the fact that injury results from the use of the product is not sufficient to impose liability upon the seller
- 2. it must also be shown that the product was defective and the defect was the CAUSE
402A - Consumer Expectation Test
Applies only where the product is at the time it leaves the seller's hands, in a condition not contemplated by the ultimate consumer, which will be unreasonably dangerous to him
Consumer expectation test of defectiveness focuses on the reasonable expectations of the user and the surprise of the element of danger involved.
Looks for ordinary knowledge common to the community as to the product's characteristics
Prentis v. Yale Mfg. Co.
F: Prentis, a foreman in an automobile dealership's parts department, utilized a battery-powered forklift to lift an engine into a truck's cargo bed. The yale Manufacturing forklift was a stand-up variety, rather than a riding machine with a seat, and it was operated by lifting its handle up and down. When the machine experienced a power surge, Prentis lost his footing and fell.
Px: P sued for an alleged design defect that yale should have made a seat or platform for the forklift operator. Trial judge refused to insturct jury on breach of warranty. Court of Appeals reversed for wrong jury instruction.
H: A negligence test should apply to products liability actions predicated upon defective design.
O'Brien v. Muskin Corp.
F: Gary O'Brien was injured when he dove head-first into an above-ground swimming pool. There was a warning on the outer wall of the pool that warned "DO NOT DIVE."
Px: O'Brien sued Muskin Corp for a design defect (slippery vinyl surface of the bottom of the pool) and lack of adequate warnings. Trial court didn't allow jury to consider the vinyl liner only the adequacy of the warning. Appealte reversed judgment for Muskin and O'Brien appealed.
Q/P: Does P bear the burden of proving a design defect based on a rusk-utility analysis?
H: Yes, P bears the burden of proving a design defect based on a risk-utility analysis.
7 Factor Evaluation for Risk/Utility
1. Utility of the product to the public as a whole and to the individual user
2. The nature of the product that is, the likelihood that it will cause injury
3. The availability of a safer design
4. The potential for designing and manufacturing the product so that it is safer but remains functional and reasonably priced
5. The ability of P to have avoided injury by careful use of the product
6. The degree of awareness of the potential danger
7. The manufacturer's ability to spread any cost related to improving the safety of the design
Necessity for Showing Unreasonable Danger
The product must be dangerous to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary consumer who purchases it, with the ordinary knowledge common to the community as to its characteristics
Anderson v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp.
F: Anderson contracted asbestosis and other lung ailments through exposure to asbestos products while working at the company for 35 years.
Px: Anderson sued Owens-Corning under products liability for failure to warn of the risk of harm from asbestos exposure. Trial court allowed the state-of-the-art evidence of the known and knowable risks of asbestos at the time. Trial court granted new trial. Parties argue admissibility of the evidence.
Q/P: Is "state-of-the-art" evidence in an action based upon a warnings defect?
H: Yes. Evidence of the state of the art is admissible in an action based upon an alleged failure to warn.
Reasoning: Inserting theories of negligence, P must prove that D was aware of the risk. A failure to warn cannot be evaluated without reference to the conduct of D. Strict liability imposes a lower hurdle for plaintiffs than a negligent failure to warn. They must only prove that the manufacturer ignored what was generally known or knowable in the scientific community about a product. There is not requirement to show that the manufacturer was unreasonable, as in a negligence action.
State of the Art
Definition: Evidence that a particular risk was either known or knowable in the scientific community at the time of manufacture and/or distribution
Relevant to cases based upon warnings defects
May provide a defense for a manufacturer
Friedman v. General Motors Corp.
F: A driver sued the automobile manufacturer for injuries when his automobile started and went out of control after he turned the ignition switch when the indicator was in the "drive" position.
Rule: Circumstantial evidence of defects may be used to make a prima facie case.
Learned Intermediary Rule (warnings)
Is the person who is harmed such a learned individual that they should have known about the dangers? See emergency responder case
Daly v. General Motors Corp.
Comparative fault provides a defense to strict products liability
Ford Motor Co. v. Matthews
Manufacturers are liable for abnormal uses of products that are reasonable foreseeable.
i.e. standing on a chair
Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc.
State common law claims against an FDA-approved medical device are preempted.
i.e. The Medical Device Amendments makes the requirements for a medical device under federal law
Wyeth v. Levine
Juries may impose higher warning standards than the FDA
Woman went to the ER for a migraine and they gave her a drug that hurt her arm and resulted in an amputation. She sued for inadequate warnings.
Where it is not impossible for a drug manufacturer to comply with both state and federal law obligations, common law claims do not stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment of Congress' purposes in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.