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MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co.

Citation. 111 N.E. 1050 (N.Y. 1916)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant purchased a defective wheel, which was installed on an automobile ultimately purchased by the plaintiff through an intermediary.  The wheel failed, causing injury to the plaintiff.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Manufacturers must exercise an amount of care commensurate with the reasonably anticipated use of its products beyond the direct purchaser.


Defendant purchased wheels from a third party, which it installed on its automobiles as part of the production process.  The automobile was completed, sold to a dealer, then subsequently sold to the Plaintiff.  During the Plaintiffs use of the car, one of the wheels suddenly broke, throwing Plaintiff from the car and causing him injuries.  It was found that the wheel had defects which could have been discovered by Buick as part of the production process if the wheels had been inspected, but they were not inspected.


The substantive issue is whether Buick (defendant), owed a duty of care to anyone but the dealer that purchased the car from them?


Yes, the Defendant owes a duty of care to all who may use their automobiles.


Justice Bartlett, CH. J.

In his dissent, Justice Bartlett argues that there is no precedent to support this decision, and opines that the situation does not warrant this type of remedy.  His analysis rests on the unequal results that would arise when comparing the instant case to an analogous situation involving a wagon, as opposed to a car, which would not result in liability under the majority’s rule.


Subsequent resale of the automobiles do not absolve the Defendant of their relationship of privity to the user.  As the manufacturer they are responsible for the finished product, which requires ordinary and reasonable testing and inspection of components as well as the whole. The obligation to test/inspect varies with the good; here it was plainly evident that people other than the purchaser would be using the automobile, and that the dealer sold automobiles such as this one.  Consequently the Defendant has no defense in saying they were not in privity with the Plaintiff.

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