Batten v. Chrysler Corp., A93A1020

Citation211 Ga.App. 173,438 S.E.2d 647
Decision Date19 November 1993
Docket NumberNo. A93A1020,A93A1020
Parties, Prod.Liab.Rep. (CCH) P 13,777 BATTEN et al. v. CHRYSLER CORPORATION.
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)

Berrien L. Sutton, Homerville, Hallman & Stewart, Ronald W. Hallman, Claxton, for appellants.

Dillard, Bower & East, Terry A. Dillard, Bryant H. Bower, Jr., Walker & Sweat, Bruce M. Walker, Waycross, Freeman & Hawkins, Joe C. Freeman, Jr., Stephen M. Lore, Charles R. Beans, Atlanta, for appellee.

King & Spalding, Chilton D. Varner, Lawrence A. Slovensky, Atlanta, amicus curiae.

McMURRAY, Presiding Judge.

On October 30, 1988, Patricia Batten sustained severe head injuries when the 1978 Chrysler Lebaron automobile she was operating collided with another vehicle. Although wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision, Patricia Batten was hurled over the vehicle's collapsed steering column and into the instrument panel. Patricia Batten, and her spouse in a loss of consortium claim, sued Chrysler Corporation, alleging the seat belt retractor mechanism in the vehicle was defective; that the defective device caused the seat belt restraint to fail and that Patricia Batten suffered enhanced injuries as a result of the product defect. 1 Chrysler denied the material allegations of the complaint and filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting the ten-year statute of repose prescribed in OCGA § 51-1-11.

The trial court granted Chrysler's motion for summary judgment, finding that the Battens filed their complaint more than ten years after the first sale of the allegedly defective vehicle. This appeal followed. Held:

1. The Battens contend the trial court "[e]rred in granting summary judgment in favor of Chrysler Corporation as there are factual issues to be decided by a jury under O.C.G.A. Section 51-1-11(c)."

(a) OCGA § 51-1-11(b)(2) provides that no products liability action "shall be commenced pursuant to [OCGA § 51-1-11(b) ] with respect to an injury after ten years from the date of the first sale for use or consumption of the personal property causing or otherwise bringing about the injury." OCGA § 51-1-11(c) extends this ten-year limitation period "to the commencement of an action claiming negligence of a manufacturer as the basis of liability, except in an action seeking to recover from a manufacturer for injuries or damages ... arising out of conduct which manifests a willful, reckless, or wanton disregard for life or property." OCGA § 51-1-11(c). The issue of wilful, reckless, or wanton disregard for life or property is generally a matter for the jury. See Ford Motor Co. v. Stubblefield, 171 Ga.App. 331, 340(7), 341, 319 S.E.2d 470.

In the case sub judice, Billy S. Peterson deposed that he was the Chief Project Engineer at the Vehicle Research and Test Center of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") between August 1976 and January 1983; that Chrysler was under investigation by NHTSA prior to 1978 because of failures in the type of seat belt restraint system found in the vehicle driven by Patricia Batten (i.e., "inertia reel" seat belts) and that Chrysler's subsequent modifications to its inertia reel seat belt systems did not resolve the product defect. Peterson further deposed that Patricia Batten was wearing an inertia reel seat belt at the time of the collision and that the intrinsically defective seat belt resulted in improper passenger restraint, causing Patricia Batten to suffer enhanced injuries. There is also proof that inertia reel seat belts do not always function within Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; that Chrysler could have avoided the safety hazard caused by use of inertia reel seat belts prior to 1978 via use of another passenger restraint system then available; that Chrysler then rejected use of supplemental ("air-bag") restraint...

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4 cases
  • Chrysler Corp. v. Batten
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • December 5, 1994
    ...of repose. OCGA § 51-1-11(b)(2) and (c). The Court of Appeals reversed as to the claims sounding in negligence. Batten v. Chrysler Corp., 211 Ga.App. 173, 438 S.E.2d 647 (1993). Writ of certiorari was granted to consider the Court of Appeals' 1. The complaint in this case sets forth two sep......
  • Phelps v. Huff
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • August 12, 1994
    ...argued in the brief, we consider only the hearsay ground which is contained in the enumeration of error. Batten v. Chrysler Corp., 211 Ga.App. 173, 175 (2), 438 S.E.2d 647 (1993). OCGA § 24-3-13 provides that "[t]raditional evidence as to ancient boundaries and landmarks shall be admissible......
  • State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Hudson
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • November 14, 1994
    ... ... the original enumeration." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Batten v. Chrysler Corp., 211 Ga.App ... 173, 175(2), 438 S.E.2d 647 (1993) ... ...
  • Batten v. Chrysler Corp., A93A1020
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 24, 1995
    ...Corp. v. Batten, 264 Ga. 723, 450 S.E.2d 208, affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of this court in Batten v. Chrysler Corp., 211 Ga.App. 173, 438 S.E.2d 647, this court's judgment is vacated. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia is made the judgment of this court an......

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