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Heaton v. Ford Motor Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that if the plaintiff fails to show any evidence whether direct or circumstantial, to prove a design defect, the plaintiff can still recover damages by proving the product did not meet the reasonable expectations of the user of the product. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A plaintiff may still recover monetary damages when he or she fails to provide any evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, if the plaintiff can prove the product did not meet the reasonable expectations of a user f the product. 

    Facts.

    After purchasing a new ford truck, Heaton (Plaintiff) expected to use the truck for regular activities including driving on surface streets and off-road driving for hunting. One day, while driving, the Plaintiff struck a rock which had no immediate effect on the truck. Approximately 35 miles later, the car veered off the road and flipped. It was determined one of the wheels was detached from the “spider” the interior portion of the wheel which is attached to the rim of the wheel. Heaton brought suit against Ford (defendant) claiming the vehicle was a defective product. Trial court ruled in favor of the defendant and the plaintiff appeals. 

    Issue.

    If a plaintiff fails to provide any evidence either direct or circumstantial to prove a design defect, and the plaintiff proves the product did not meet his reasonable expectations can the plaintiff recover?

    Held.

    Yes. The court notes that if the reasonable expectations of a performance of a product are not met, a plaintiff may still recover despite failing to how any direct or circumstantial evidence. The court notes that the jury must determine what the reasonable consumer expects from the product in question. 

    Dissent.

    The dissent focuses on the size of the rock at issue that caused the accident. The dissent wonders if the manufacturer should be liable for failing to create a product that can withstand an impact from a five inch rock. 

    Discussion.

    The court emphasizes that the jury is supposed to determine if the product met the expectations of the consumer. 


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