negligence proximately caused Olsen's injuries.
With this brief background, the Court will now address the contentions raised by the plaintiffs.
II. Plaintiffs' Grounds for New Trial
A. Crashworthiness/Second Collision
Plaintiffs first argue that the court failed to give the jury an adequate charge on plaintiffs' "crashworthiness" and "second collision" theories. In particular, plaintiffs state that the Court merely gave "a straight negligence and 402A charge." In plaintiffs' view, such a charge fails to inform the jury of the applicable law.
In examining the charge for alleged error, it is necessary to view the charge as a whole. Ely v. Reading Co., 424 F.2d 758, 760 (3d Cir. 1970). Moreover, "(a) party has no vested interest in any particular form of instructions; the language of the charge is for the trial court to determine. If, from the entire charge, it appears that the jury has been fairly and adequately instructed, ... then the requirements of the law are satisfied." James v. Continental Insurance Co., 424 F.2d 1064, 1065 (3d Cir. 1970), quoted in Shaw v. Lauritzen, 428 F.2d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 1970).
Turning to the case at bar, we first note that any failure to charge on so-called "crashworthiness" or "second collision" principles on the 402A phase of the case cannot be asserted to be the result of the Court's failure to heed plaintiffs' objections. Before charging the jury, the Court specifically asked plaintiffs' counsel which of his points for charge were submitted on the 402A theory and which were submitted on the negligence theory. N.T. 9-61. Plaintiffs' counsel thereafter stated three times that points 1-28, which included the points at issue here, were submitted to cover the negligence claim, while points 29 et seq. were submitted to cover the strict liability claim. See N.T. 9-61; 9-62; 9-67 to 9-68; 9-94; 10-6 to 10-7.
Plaintiffs also appear to suggest that the "second collision" doctrine has developed into a cause of action distinguishable from negligence and strict products liability. See (Memorandum in Support of) Plaintiffs' Motion for a New Trial, at 7. Thus, plaintiffs seem to argue, a court cannot simply rely on principles of negligence and strict products liability where the "second collision" doctrine is involved. Plaintiffs, however, offer no support for their argument. This is understandable because it is clear that "crashworthiness" and "second collision" are merely alternative expressions for the notion that, within limits, automobile manufacturers may be held liable for injuries caused by their failure to take the possibility of automobile accidents into consideration in designing their products. See Dyson v. General Motors Corp., 298 F. Supp. 1064, 1072-1073 (E.D.Pa.1969). As explained below, that concept is applicable to cases tried on theories of both strict products liability and negligence. It does not, however, have a life of its own as a separate and distinct cause of action.
The Court will assume, however, that plaintiffs' contention is that the Court's charge on strict products liability and negligence was inadequate because of the lack of more specific references to "crashworthiness" and "second collision." These terms are no doubt useful tools, as all words are, to guide courts, lawyers and juries in understanding more elaborate principles. Terms such as these, however, may be more attractive because of their brevity than they are useful from the viewpoint of comprehension. It is plainly preferable to concentrate on clearly explaining the relevant principles than to use shorthand expressions of uncertain or even incorrect meaning.
The so-called "crashworthiness" and "second collision" doctrines have generally come into play in personal injury actions arising out of automobile accidents in which it is alleged that the design or construction of the vehicle did not cause the accident itself, but instead caused injury in the course of an accident resulting from some other cause. See generally 1 L. Frumer & M. Friedman, Products Liability § 6.05(14)(a) (1981). A split of authority has developed over whether an automobile manufacturer may ever be held liable for injuries suffered in an accident where the accident itself was not caused by a defect in the automobile. E. g. Evans v. General Motors Corp., 359 F.2d 822 (7th Cir. 1966) (manufacturer could not be held liable). Contra Larsen v. General Motors Corp., 391 F.2d 495 (8th Cir. 1968) (manufacturer may be liable). The rationale of those cases in which the manufacturer has been absolved from liability is that a manufacturer has a duty to make a product reasonably fit for its intended purpose, and "the intended purpose of an automobile does not include its participation in collisions with other objects, despite the manufacturer's ability to foresee the possibility that such collisions may occur." Evans v. General Motors Corp., supra, at 825. The cases reaching the opposite result criticize this view as narrow and unrealistic. E. g. Larsen v. General Motors Corp., supra, at 502. Their view, as fully explained in the leading case taking this position, Larsen v. General Motors Corp., supra, is as follows:
Where the manufacturer's negligence in design causes an unreasonable risk to be imposed upon the user of its products, the manufacturer should be liable for the injury caused by its failure to exercise reasonable care in the design. These injuries are readily foreseeable as an incident to the normal and expected use of an automobile. While automobiles are not made for the purpose of colliding with each other, a frequent and inevitable contingency of normal automobile use will result in collisions and injury-producing impacts. No rational basis exists for limiting recovery to situations where the defect in design or manufacture was the causative factor of the accident, as the accident and the resulting injury, usually caused by the so-called "second collision" of the passenger with the interior part of the automobile, all are foreseeable. Where the injuries or enhanced injuries are due to the manufacturer's failure to use reasonable care to avoid subjecting the user of its products to an unreasonable risk of injury, general negligence principles should be applicable. The sole function of an automobile is not just to provide a means of transportation, it is to provide a means of safe transportation or as safe as is reasonably possible under the present state of the art.