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CLARKE v. GMC

April 20, 1977

LaVONIA R. CLARKE and CHARLES H. CLARKE
v.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TROUTMAN

 TROUTMAN, J.

 I.

 JURISDICTION AND PARTIES

 The controversy is alleged to involve in excess of $10,000 and, therefore, jurisdiction is presumably based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1332. While no evidence was introduced as to diversity of citizenship, jurisdiction has not been affirmatively questioned. Therefore, we find and conclude that this Court has jurisdiction.

 II.

 THE PLAINTIFFS' CONTENTIONS

 The plaintiffs' complaint (paragraph 9) alleged (1) negligence, (2) breach of express or implied warranties, and (3) design defects. During the course of the trial negligence was expressly abandoned as a basis for recovery and plaintiffs pursued the theories of breach of warranty, express or implied, and strict tort liability within the meaning of Restatement 2d -- Torts, § 402A. An express warranty was not proven. Neither was an implied warranty pursued except to the extent that it is, in some respects, not dissimilar to certain of the considerations relevant to Restatement § 402A. Plaintiffs bottom their case upon Restatement § 402A which provides:

 
"§ 402A. Special Liability of Seller of Product for Physical Harm to User or Consumer
 
(1) One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm thereby caused to the ultimate user or consumer, or to his property, if
 
(a) the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and
 
(b) it is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.
 
(2) The rule stated in Subsection (1) applies although
 
(a) the seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of his product, and
 
(b) the user or consumer has not bought the product from or entered into any contractual relation with the seller."

 Admittedly, the defendant is engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling automobiles, including the vehicle here involved, which utilized the Saginaw power steering system manufactured by a division of the defendant corporation. The vehicle reached the plaintiff without substantial change in condition.

 Plaintiffs had the right to expect that the vehicle would meet reasonable safety expectations and here "contend that they need only show under Section 402A, that the product was in fact (1) unreasonably dangerous due to (2) a defective condition and (3) that said defect caused driver's injury". (Plaintiffs' suggested conclusions of law, page 2). They contend that the vehicle involved went into a spin and out of control and that "(if) linked in an evidentiary manner to a 'defect', the results certainly indicate that it was unreasonably dangerous". (Plaintiffs' suggested conclusions of law, page 2).

 III.

 THE APPLICABLE LAW

 The plaintiffs contend, and we recognize, that under § 402A, a "defective condition" can be established without specific proof of a design defect. Evidence of a mechanical malfunction can be the basis for such finding. Greco v. Bucciconi Engineering Co., 283 F. Supp. 978 (W.D. Pa. 1967). It is the law of Pennsylvania, as plaintiffs assert, that a plaintiff in a strict liability case can establish a "defective condition", within the meaning of § 402A, by proving that the product functioned improperly in the absence of ...


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