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JOHN MCCOWN v. INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER COMPANY (07/07/75)

decided: July 7, 1975.

JOHN MCCOWN
v.
INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER COMPANY, A CORPORATION, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Kim Darragh, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Edwin H. Beachler, III, McArdle, Henderson, Caroselli, Laffey & Beachler, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Mr. Justice Roberts did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Mr. Justice Pomeroy filed a concurring opinion.

Author: Jones

[ 463 Pa. Page 14]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, manufacturer of large over-the-road tractors, was held liable under Section 402A of Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965) for the injuries sustained by the appellee in a one-vehicle accident. The Superior Court affirmed and we granted allocatur limited to the issue of the availability of contributory negligence as a defense to a 402A action.

[ 463 Pa. Page 15]

Appellee was injured while driving a tractor manufactured by appellant. The design of the steering mechanism of the tractor made the vehicle unusually difficult to maneuver. Specifically, twelve to fifteen percent more mechanical effort than that normally expended had to be applied to the steering wheel to accomplish any given turn. Appellee, after driving the vehicle for several hours, stopped for an equipment check on the blacktopped shoulder of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. After completing the inspection the appellee proceeded to re-enter the Turnpike.

Unrelated to any steering difficulty appellee struck a guardrail adjoining the shoulder with the right front tire of the tractor. This collision caused the steering wheel to spin rapidly in the direction opposite to the turn. The spokes of the spinning steering wheel struck appellee's right arm, fracturing his wrist and forearm. Evidence adduced at trial indicated that the force and speed of the steering wheel's counterrotation were directly related to the design of the steering mechanism.

For the purposes of this appeal appellant concedes the defect in the steering system's design, but argues that appellee's contributory negligence in colliding with the guardrail should at least be considered in determining appellee's recovery. We disagree and affirm.

In Webb v. Zern, 422 Pa. 424, 220 A.2d 853 (1966), this Court adopted Section 402A of the Restatement and in Ferraro v. Ford Motor Co., 423 Pa. 324, 223 A.2d 746 (1966), permitted the assertion of assumption of the risk as a defense to a 402A action, citing with approval comment n to Section 402A. Today, we complete our acceptance of the principles delineated in comment n*fn1 by rejecting

[ 463 Pa. Page 16]

    contributory negligence as an available defense ...


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