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Peterson v. Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Co

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, James Peterson’s (Plaintiff) children were injured when they were struck by a used car. The Plaintiff sued the Defendant, Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Co. (Defendant), alleging that the used car was defective when it left the Defendant’s lot.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Strict products liability will not be applied to the seller of previously used products.

    Facts. Maradean Peterson (Maradean) and her brother, Mark Peterson (Mark) where struck by a car while walking home from school. Maradean died as a result of the accident and Mark suffered severe injuries, including amputation of a leg. The automobile that struck the Maradean and Mark was purchased used from the Defendant Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Co. (defendant). The Plaintiff, father of the children, brought suit against the driver of the car, its owners, and the Defendant.

    Issue. Can the strict products liability applied to a retailer also be imposed on a defendant who is outside the original producing and marketing chain?

    Held. No. Judgment of the Appellate Court is reversed.
    * Plaintiff claims that at the time the automobile in question left Defendant’s control it was not reasonably safe for driving and that these defective conditions were a proximate cause of the injuries that occurred.
    * Strict liability has previously been applied to retailers, justified on the ground that their position in the market allows them to place pressure on the manufacturer to enhance the product’s safety. In the present case there is no claim that the defects existed when the product left the manufacturer or that the defects were created by the used car dealer. Under these facts, the court saw no justification in effectively causing used car dealers to become the insurers against defects.

    Dissent. Justice Goldenhers stated that the application of strict liability is intended to place the burden of losses on those who have created the risk and reaped profit by placing the product into the stream of commerce. There is no justification for not applying the same standard to used car dealers.

    Discussion. The majority of courts have declined to place the burdens of strict liability on the sellers of used products.


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