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Peterson v. Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Co.

Citation. 61 Ill.2d 17, 329 N.E.2d 785
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant sold a used automobile to a driver who struck two children. One child died as a result and the other child had to have have his leg amputated. Plaintiff, the children’s father, brought suit against defendant to recover for the death and injuries of his children.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Strict liability may not be imposed upon a defendant who is outside of the original producing and marketing chain.


While they were walking home from school, the minor children, Maradean and Mark Peterson, were struck by a used 1965 Chevrolet automobile. Maradean died as a result of the accident. Mark survived, but suffered severe injuries and had to have one of his legs amputated. James Peterson (plaintiff), was the administrator of their estate, father, and next friend of Maradean and Mark. James brought suit against Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Company (defendant), the car dealer who had sold the 1965 Chevrolet to the driver who struck the minor children. James sought recovery for the wrongful death of Maradean and for the injuries Mark suffered as a result of the accident. James alleged that the automobile was defective when it left defendant’s control and that the automobile was not reasonably safe for driving and operation. The circuit court dismissed the two counts of the complaint. The appellate court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal. Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Company appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois.


Whether a retailer outside of the overall producing and marketing enterprise may be held strictly liable in tort?


No. The judgment of the appellate court is reversed. The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.


Justice Goldenhersh

The underlying rationale of strict liability is to have a party bear the loss if they created the risk by placing the product in the stream of commerce. Strict liability should apply to a used car dealer who places an unreasonably dangerous vehicle in the stream of commerce. The judgment of the appellate court should have been affirmed.


Wholesalers and retailers have an integral role in the overall production and marketing enterprise of a product. Specifically, wholesalers and retailers are able “to exert pressure” on the manufacturer to create safe products. Accordingly, wholesalers and retailers may be held strictly liable in tort because of the unique position they hold in relation to manufacturers. A used car dealership like Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Company, however, is outside this original producing and marketing chain. The court declines to extend the same liability to Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet Company.

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