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FINNIE v. FORD MOTOR CO.

September 21, 1971

William H. FINNIE, Jr., Administrator of the Estate of Wilmer O. Parker, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY et al., Defendants


McCune, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCUNE

McCUNE, District Judge.

 We are asked to grant a new trial in the within case following the entry of a directed verdict for the defendants at the close of plaintiff's testimony.

 The complaint alleged that Wilmer O. Parker traveling alone on July 4, 1966, at about 8:30 P.M. was operating his Ford car on Interstate 70 east of Belle Vernon in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, when he reached a dip in the road. As he went in and out of the dip the steering mechanism of his Ford, which was about a year old, temporarily froze and in particular both upper ball joints of the steering mechanism failed, making it impossible to steer the car which caused the car to cross the medial strip where it was struck by an oncoming vehicle. In the collision Wilmer O. Parker was killed.

 Ford Motor Corporation was sued as the manufacturer, Baron Ford of Charleroi, Inc. as the seller and Paul Baron as an employee of the seller.

 Ford Motor Company was sued under 402A of the Restatement but negligence was the theory directed at Baron Ford and Baron.

 At the pretrial conference the deposition was offered as the expert's report and the court ordered that the deposition would be accepted as the report and the testimony of the expert on the stand would be confined to the observations and conclusions contained in the deposition (p. 5 pretrial transcript).

 (The plaintiff's expert was permitted to file a later report which was consistent with his deposition).

 At trial plaintiff introduced testimony that decedent, alone in his car, left home at 8:00 o'clock P.M. to drive from Monessen to Philadelphia. The car was about one year old and had been driven about 7000 miles. The car, going east left the east bound lanes, crossed the medial barrier or hump, went into the west bound lanes and was hit by a west bound car. As the Ford crossed the medial barrier or hump a witness coming west saw a side view of it and testified that the wheels were "straight." It was raining. The Ford had come around a slight curve to the right on a "tar" surface containing a slight dip in the road.

 Following the accident the Ford car was taken to a garage presumably by a tow truck and from there to a junk yard some 18 miles away by a tow truck. It was there that an investigator found it and had the ball joint assembly cut off the front end of the car. He had never examined the ball joints before the accident or before the car was found in the junk yard. Neither had the expert ever seen the ball joints until they were brought to his attention by the investigator. (At that time the grease seals were apparently intact. They apparently became ruptured during examinations of the ball joints conducted by some one).

 The expert admitted he could not come to any conclusion that the ball joints were operating improperly on the car from his examination of them (p. 174) and had still (while testifying) not formed such an opinion (p. 176). He admitted that the part had been damaged in the accident which allowed more motion of the ball joint then normal (p. 179) and that it was impossible to give the joint a functional test (p. 180). This testimony was consistent with his deposition (see discussion at p. 193).

 The expert admitted that he did not know when the grease seals were broken, or whether they were broken by the impact (p. 234) and if in fact the lubricant had leaked out of the joints and caused excessive wear or burring he didn't know when this took place (p. 234).

 In view of all the testimony we failed to find any rational opinion that at the time the car was manufactured or sold it was in a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous to the consumer, or that the car reached the consumer without substantial change in the condition in which ...


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