476 F.2d 1276 (2nd Cir. 1973), 321, Begley v. Ford Motor Co.

Docket Nº:321, 72-1775.
Citation:476 F.2d 1276
Party Name:John H. BEGLEY and Lawrence J. Sinnott, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant, and Empire Lincoln-Mercury, Inc., Defendant.
Case Date:April 12, 1973
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 1276

476 F.2d 1276 (2nd Cir. 1973)

John H. BEGLEY and Lawrence J. Sinnott, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant, and Empire Lincoln-Mercury, Inc., Defendant.

No. 321, 72-1775.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

April 12, 1973

Argued Jan. 15, 1973.

Page 1277

William F. McNulty, New York City (Daniel J. Coughlin and Anthony J. McNulty, New York City, on the brief), for defendant-appellant Ford Motor Co.

Harold M. Hershman, New York City (Murray Weitman, Marvin H. Leicher and Hershman & Leicher, New York City, on the brief), for plaintiffs-appellees.

Before FRIENDLY, Chief Judge, and OAKES and TIMBERS, Circuit Judges.

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs John H. Begley and Lawrence J. Sinnott commenced this diversity action in the Southern District of New York to recover damages for personal injuries sustained as the result of an automobile collision on the Connecticut Turnpike on April 22, 1966. Plaintiffs claimed that the 1965 Lincoln Continental in which they were riding home from work (Begley driving, Sinnott a front seat passenger) collided with the rear of another automobile, both proceeding eastbound, at the Greenwich toll station when the Lincoln's brakes failed to operate. The brake failure allegedly was caused by defective brake fluid supplied by defendant Ford Motor Company (Ford) through one of its dealers, Eastman Motors of Greenwich (Eastman Motors), the brakes having been tested a month prior to the accident by defendant Empire Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. (Empire). Plaintiffs' claims against Ford were based on negligence and breach of warranty in the manufacture of the brake fluid.

After a five day jury trial before Lloyd F. MacMahon, District Judge, verdicts in favor of Begley and Sinnott in amounts of $25,000 and $14,000, respectively, were returned against Ford. The jury also returned a defendant's verdict in favor of Empire. Only Ford has appealed. The issues raised on appeal are simple and straightforward. They involve the sufficiency of the evidence, the admissibility of certain expert testimony, and the propriety of portions of the jury charge. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

I.

There was evidence at the trial from which the jury could have found as follows.

The Lincoln involved in the accident was owned by Great Lakes Carbon Corporation, of which Sinnott was an officer and Begley an employee. The vehicle was assigned to Sinnott for his use. It had been purchased from Eastman Motors in April 1965. Shortly after the purchase, Sinnott on several occasions complained to the service department of Eastman Motors that the brakes would not function until the pedal was close to the floorboard. On October 19, 1965, Eastman Motors made certain modifications to the braking system of the vehicle. This was done pursuant to a General Sales Bulletin, referred to as "Campaign L65-07", which Ford issued in September 1965 to its dealers and sales representatives. Sinnot took the vehicle back to Eastman Motors on January 11, 1966, at which time he complained that the brakes "were catching too close to the floor". On the morning of March 21, 1966-one month before the accident here involved -the vehicle experienced total brake failure on the East River Drive while in bumper to bumper traffic. It was taken to Empire's service station in mid-Man-hattan where the braking system was checked and some new brake fluid which had been furnished by Ford was added to the existing fluid.

Employees of both Eastman Motors and Empire testified at the trial that they had received numerous complaints concerning the braking mechanism-particularly "a low brake pedal"-on other 1965 Lincoln Continentals. 1

Page 1278

Plaintiffs' principal witness at the trial was Roger Harvey, an expert in chemical engineering. Harvey had inspected the vehicle on May 25, May 27 and August 31, 1966, and had tested a specimen of brake fluid taken from the vehicle. He determined that the brake...

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