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MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co.

Citation. 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050 (1916)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff’s car crashed and plaintiff was injured. Defendant was the manufacturer of the car, however, plaintiff bought the car from a dealer not defendant directly. Additionally, the defective wheels which caused the accident were manufactured by a separate manufacturer.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

If a manufacturer, who puts a finished product on the market to be used without inspection by his customers, is negligent, where danger is to be foreseen, a liability will follow.


Defendant was an automobile manufacturer who sourced its wheels from a separate manufacturer. Defendant sold its automobiles to automobile retailers, and one of the retailers sold the car to plaintiff. One day, while plaintiff was driving, the car wheels broke and crumbled into fragments. The car collapsed and plaintiff was thrown out and injured badly. Evidence showed that the wheels were defective. However, the defects could have been discovered by reasonable inspection, and that inspection was omitted. Plaintiff sued defendant for negligence.


Whether the defendant manufacturer owed a duty of care to any one but the immediate purchaser?


Yes. Because defendant was a manufacturer of automobiles, it should be responsible for the finished product and perform tests on the component parts.


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. Additionally, if the manufacturer has the knowledge that the thing will be used by persons other than the purchaser, and used without new tests, then, irrespective of contract, the manufacturer of this thing of danger is under a duty to make it carefully. There must be knowledge of a danger, not merely possible, but probable.

In the present case, defendant placed a finished product on the market to be used without inspection by its customers. Defendant knew the danger. Defendant also knew that the car would be used by people other than the buyer. The present case was not merely a dealer, but a manufacturer of automobiles. The Court concluded that defendant manufacturer was responsible for the finished product and should have done ordinary inspection tests. By failing to do so, defendant was negligence and should be liable.

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