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Duckworth v. Ford Motor Co.

July 22, 1963

HARRY DUCKWORTH
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, APPELLANT, V. JOHN B. WHITE, INC., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



Author: Ganey

Before HASTIE, GANEY and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

GANEY, Circuit Judge.

This is a diversity suit brought by Harry Duckworth, a resident of Pennsylvania, against the Ford Motor Company, a Delaware corporation, who sought recovery for personal injuries and property damages caused by a defective steering wheel in a car manufactured by Ford. The action charged Ford with breach of warranty and negligence and Ford, in turn, brought on the record, as a third-party defendant, John B. White, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation and an authorized Ford dealer, which sold the car to Duckworth. In its third-party complaint, Ford alleged that White was negligent and that its negligence caused or contributed to Duckworth's injuries. In answer to special interrogatories at the end of the trial, the jury found that Ford breached its implied warranty and, additionally, it was guilty of negligence, which were the proximate causes of Duckworth's injuries, and that the plaintiff was not contributorily negligent. It, likewise, found that the third-party defendant, White, was guilty of negligence, which was a proximate cause of the injuries. Damages were assessed in the sum of $50,000.

The district court molded the verdict and entered judgment in favor of Duckworth against Ford in the amount of $50,000 in the main action and in favor of Ford against White for contribution as a joint tort feasor in the third-party action.

Ford's motion to set aside the verdict in Duckworth's favor was denied. However, the district court set aside the judgment in favor of Ford against White for contribution. On appeal, Ford has abandoned its claim that the district court committed error in denying its motion to set aside the verdict in favor of Duckworth, as well as its claim for indemnity, and presses solely as error, the district court's entering of judgment n.o. v. in favor of White in the third-party action.

The evidence discloses that the plaintiff purchased a Ford Ranch Wagon on February 28, 1957, from White, a duly authorized Ford dealer. Three days after the delivery of the car by White to Duckworth, duckworth complained to White of the bumpiness in the steering wheel which occurred during that day, that is, he would turn the steering wheel and it would, on occasion, bind or jam. The record further discloses that this again happened, at least 4 or 5 times, while he was in possession of the car. On March 28, 1957, the plaintiff drove the car to White's place of business and the following conversation took place with the service manager:

"Q. What, if anything, did you tell the man at White's, the man you delivered the car to, with reference to what you wanted done on the car?

"A. You mean what I wanted done on the car?

"Q. That is right.

"A. I told him to go over the - the linkage, the steering, the back lock on the - on the back door, and - and the rattles. There was four things.

"Q. And what did he say to you?

"A. When *i - when I picked the car up?

"Q. Yes.

"A. When I picked the car up, I says, 'Did you ...


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