Bright v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., No. 83-5417

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore ENGEL and KENNEDY; PER CURIAM
Citation756 F.2d 19
Decision Date07 September 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-5417
PartiesWarren Lloyd BRIGHT, Paul M. Shelton and William Ralph Whittaker, Plaintiffs- Appellants, v. FIRESTONE TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

Page 19

756 F.2d 19
Warren Lloyd BRIGHT, Paul M. Shelton and William Ralph
Whittaker, Plaintiffs- Appellants,
v.
FIRESTONE TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 83-5417.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Sept. 7, 1984.

Page 20

Hal Gerber, argued, Gerber, Gerber & Agee, James H. Mathis, Memphis, Tenn., Joe C. Hailey, Selmer, Tenn., for plaintiffs-appellants.

William H. King, Jr., argued, David H. Worrell, Jr., McGuire, Woods & Battle, Richmond, Va., J.N. Raines, Memphis, Tenn., for defendant-appellee.

Before ENGEL and KENNEDY, Circuit Judges, and WISEMAN *, Chief Judge.

PER CURIAM.

Plaintiffs appeal from denial of their motion for a new trial following a jury verdict for defendant. Plaintiffs are the fathers and representatives of three young men killed in a car accident in Selmer, Tennessee. Decedent Randall Bright had acquired a Corvette on July 3, 1978. On the night of July 3, Bright showed the Corvette to a group of people socializing and drinking beer in a radio station parking lot. Bright allowed decedent Donald Whittaker to drive the Corvette, with Bright and decedent Randall Shelton as passengers. The accident occurred in the early morning hours of July 4. There were no witnesses. The car left the road, turned one hundred and eighty degrees, and struck an embankment with great force, killing all three occupants.

The two rear tires on the Corvette were Firestone 500 tires manufactured by defendant. The front two Firestone 500's, which were original equipment on the Corvette, had become worn out and were replaced by another brand before Bright acquired the car. Plaintiffs brought suit against Firestone, claiming that the accident

Page 21

was caused by separation of the tread in the right rear tire. The case proceeded to trial on three theories of liability: negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. After seven days of testimony the District Court submitted all issues to the jury, which returned verdicts for the defendant and against each plaintiff. The District Court denied plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, and plaintiffs appeal.

The plaintiffs' first argument is that the District Court erred in holding that contributory negligence is a defense to strict liability. Defendant denies that the District Court ever made such a ruling. The plaintiffs' contention is apparently based on a discussion, which took place before voir dire, concerning the admissibility of evidence that the driver of the Corvette had been drinking. The District Court indicated that it would follow its ruling in a previous case in which "the court did allow proof on those issues, but the point is that you have got to look at the various claims and defenses and contentions of the parties." App. at 110.

Six days before, the plaintiffs had amended their complaints so as to remove the negligence claim. They argue that the District Court's indication that evidence concerning alcohol would be admissible must have meant that the District Court considered such evidence of the driver's contributory negligence relevant to the strict liability claim, since there was no negligence claim in the case at the time. Immediately before the trial commenced, however, the plaintiffs reinstated their negligence claims. Plaintiffs assert that they only reinstated their negligence claim because of the Court's indication that it would allow evidence of contributory negligence whether or not the negligence claim was pursued.

Plaintiffs' argument concerning their reason for reinstating the negligence claims is disingenuous, as the record clearly shows that the reason they reinstated the negligence claims was that without the negligence claims no punitive damages could be allowed. App. at 112-117. Since the case was tried in part on a negligence theory, evidence that the car's driver was intoxicated was clearly admissible. Plaintiffs do not claim to have even objected to its admissibility at trial.

Even disregarding the negligence claims, the District Court's statement cannot be considered a ruling that contributory negligence is a defense to strict...

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50 practice notes
  • N.J. Title Ins. Co. v. Cecere, Civ. No. 20-1286 (KM) (JBC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • December 7, 2020
    ...Cir.1976)). However, analysis of the Gold Kist factors "is not necessary" where "the default judgment was improperly entered." Gold Kist, 756 F.2d at 19. A default is improperly entered if the complaint was not properly served. Id. (holding "that because the time for filing an answer had no......
  • Richmond Medical Center v. Hicks, No. CIV.A.03CV531.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • February 2, 2004
    ...report lacked trustworthiness and was thus inadmissible because it was politically motivated); Bright v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 756 F.2d 19 (6th Cir.1984) (per curiam). The House Report (Exhibit L) represents the political position of the representatives who voted for it. It is untrus......
  • Taylor v. Gilliam, Civil No. 13-2947 (KMW/NLH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • December 4, 2013
    ...defendant has a meritorious defense; and (3) whether the default was thePage 18result of the defendant's culpable conduct." Gold Kist, 756 F.2d at 19. However, a district court need not "resort to an analysis of th[e]se factors in" every instance "because they apply only when the default ju......
  • Combs v. Nick Garin Trucking, Nos. 84-5601
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • August 4, 1987
    ...Group, Inc. v. Parque Indus. Rio Canas, Inc., 653 F.2d 54, 57 (1st Cir.1981); Gold Kist, Inc. v. Laurinburg Oil Co., supra note 37, 756 F.2d at 19; Central Operating Co. v. Utility Workers of America, 491 F.2d 245, 251 (4th Cir.1974); Mooney Aircraft, Inc. v. Donnelly, 402 F.2d 400, 406 (5t......
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50 cases
  • N.J. Title Ins. Co. v. Cecere, Civ. No. 20-1286 (KM) (JBC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • December 7, 2020
    ...Cir.1976)). However, analysis of the Gold Kist factors "is not necessary" where "the default judgment was improperly entered." Gold Kist, 756 F.2d at 19. A default is improperly entered if the complaint was not properly served. Id. (holding "that because the time for filing an answer had no......
  • Richmond Medical Center v. Hicks, No. CIV.A.03CV531.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • February 2, 2004
    ...report lacked trustworthiness and was thus inadmissible because it was politically motivated); Bright v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 756 F.2d 19 (6th Cir.1984) (per curiam). The House Report (Exhibit L) represents the political position of the representatives who voted for it. It is untrus......
  • Taylor v. Gilliam, Civil No. 13-2947 (KMW/NLH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • December 4, 2013
    ...defendant has a meritorious defense; and (3) whether the default was thePage 18result of the defendant's culpable conduct." Gold Kist, 756 F.2d at 19. However, a district court need not "resort to an analysis of th[e]se factors in" every instance "because they apply only when the default ju......
  • Combs v. Nick Garin Trucking, Nos. 84-5601
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • August 4, 1987
    ...Group, Inc. v. Parque Indus. Rio Canas, Inc., 653 F.2d 54, 57 (1st Cir.1981); Gold Kist, Inc. v. Laurinburg Oil Co., supra note 37, 756 F.2d at 19; Central Operating Co. v. Utility Workers of America, 491 F.2d 245, 251 (4th Cir.1974); Mooney Aircraft, Inc. v. Donnelly, 402 F.2d 400, 406 (5t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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