MacPherson (Plaintiff) sued Buick Motor Co. (Defendant), the manufacturer of his automobile, when one of the wheels collapsed and caused him injury, despite the fact that Defendant had not manufactured the wheel or directly sold the automobile to Plaintiff.
Recovery should be allowed for third parties injured by a product when that product, if negligently made, is one that would be a danger to life or property and it is foreseeable that third parties will use or have contact with it.
Defendant was a car manufacturer who sold one of its cars to a retail dealer who then sold it to Plaintiff. One of the wheels was defective and collapsed, causing Plaintiff serious injury. The wheels on the car had not been made by Defendant, but had been bought by Defendant from another manufacturer and Defendant could have discovered the defect through a simple inspection. Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging negligence in failing to discover the defect. Defendant argued that it was not responsible for another manufacturer’s negligence in constructing the wheel and that it owed Plaintiff no duty of care since there was no privity of contract between Plaintiff and Defendant. Finally, Defendant claimed that an automobile should not be considered a dangerous item, so recovery should not extend to third parties. Plaintiff argued that recovery under a strict liability theory should extend to third parties when the product, if negligently made, is one which would be likely to cause serious injury or death to third parties coming into contact with it. The trial court found Defendant negligent for failing to inspect the wheel; that a car was a product that, if defective, could cause serious injury or death; and that the third party purchase of the automobile was foreseeable and likely. The court entered judgment for Plaintiff and Defendant appealed.
Should recovery be extended to third parties when a product, if negligently made, would pose a danger to human life?
(Cardozo, J.) Yes. Recovery should be allowed for third parties injured by a product when that product, if negligently made, is one that would be a danger to life or property and it is foreseeable that third parties will use or have contact with it. Defendant knew or had reason to know that an automobile, if negligently manufactured, is likely to cause serious injury. It was negligent in failing to inspect the wheel for defects. It was also foreseeable that the car would be sold to third parties who could then be injured by the negligence. Where a manufacturer places a product in the stream of commerce and knows that if it has been negligently manufactured it poses a serious danger to human life, he is liable for injuries to the purchaser of the vehicle. This liability also extends to other third parties who could foreseeably be injured by the product. Privity of contract is not required since this action was brought as a tort, not a contract action. Our previous cases restricting third party recovery to dangerous products is now extended to all products which, if negligently manufactured, are likely to cause the risk of serious bodily injury or death. Affirmed.
(Bartlett, C.J.) The Court should not extend recovery beyond the â€œinherently dangerousâ€ analysis found in our earlier decisions.
In M’Alister v. Stevenson, A.C. 562 (1932), the plaintiff sued the manufacturer of a ginger beer that she purchased from a cafÃ© after she opened the beer to find a decomposed snail floating in it. The court found for the plaintiff and awarded her damages for her emotional distress and shock. In order to prove liability in a manufacturer, the plaintiff must establish that the defect causing the injury was caused solely by the manufacturer’s negligence and not from the negligence of others or the plaintiff’s contributory negligence in misusing the product.