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MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co
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    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, MacPherson (Plaintiff), bought a car from a retail dealer, and was injured when a defective wheel collapsed. Plaintiff sued the Defendant, Buick Motor Co. (Defendant), the original manufacturer of the car, on an action for negligence. Defendant had purchased the faulty wheel from another manufacturer and Defendant failed to inspect the wheel.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. If a product is reasonably expected to be dangerous if negligently made and the product is known to be used by those other than the original purchaser in the normal course of business, a duty of care exists.

    Facts. The Plaintiff brought a negligence suit against the Defendant for injuries sustained after he was thrown from his car when the wheel collapsed. Defendant had sold the automobile to a retail dealer, who in turn sold it to Plaintiff. The wheel, which was sold to Defendant by another manufacturer, was made of defective wood. Evidence suggested that the defect could have been discovered through reasonable inspection, but no inspection occurred.

    Issue. Does Defendant owe a duty of care to anyone besides the immediate purchaser in this case the retailer?

    Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
    * One line of cases has suggested that manufacturers owe a duty of care to ultimate purchasers only when the product is inherently dangerous. Other cases have suggested a duty of care is owed to foreseeable users if the product is likely to cause injury if negligently made.
    * In order for a duty of care to arise in relation to ultimate purchasers, two criteria are necessary. First, the nature of the product must be such that it is likely to place life and limb in danger if negligently made. This knowledge of danger must be probable, not merely possible. Second, there must be knowledge that in the usual course of events, the danger will be shared by people other than the buyer. This may be inferred from the nature of the transaction and the proximity or remoteness of the relation.
    * In the present case, the manufacturer of a finished product placed this product on the market to be used without inspection by its customers. If the manufacturer was negligent and the danger could be foreseen, a liability will follow.

    Discussion. Judge Cardozo, writing for the majority, also stated that the need for caution increases with the probability of danger.


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