Eickelberg v. Deere & Co., 61344

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation276 N.W.2d 442
Docket NumberNo. 61344,61344
PartiesJames L. EICKELBERG, Appellant, v. DEERE & COMPANY, Appellee.
Decision Date21 March 1979

Page 442

276 N.W.2d 442
James L. EICKELBERG, Appellant,
DEERE & COMPANY, Appellee.
No. 61344.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
March 21, 1979.

Page 443

Steven K. Warbasse and William C. Ball of Ball & Nagle, Waterloo, for appellant.

George Lindeman of Lindeman & Yagla, Waterloo, for appellee.


ALLBEE, Justice.

Plaintiff, James L. Eickelberg, was injured when his hand was caught between the belt and sheave of a variable speed transmission on the left side of a John Deere Model 95 combine. That implement belonged to Robert Rose, whom plaintiff had hired to harvest his soybeans. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was attempting to assist Rose in making minor repairs of the machine in the field.

As originally pleaded, the lawsuit was against Deere & Co. for products liability,

Page 444

based on negligence, strict liability and warranty theories, and against Rose and Darwin Larsen, the combine operator, for negligence. The claims against the latter defendants were dismissed before trial, as were the negligence and warranty counts against Deere & Co. Thus the case proceeded to trial against Deere & Co. on the single remaining theory, strict liability in tort. The jury returned a verdict for defendant. Judgment was entered on the verdict. Plaintiff's motion for a new trial was denied, and he appealed. We consider the five issues he raises in the order in which they are argued in his brief.

I. Plaintiff first argues that trial court erred in instructing the jury that it had to find that the product was unreasonably dangerous in order to return a verdict for plaintiff on the strict liability theory. He cites the language from Haumerson v. Ford Motor Co., 257 N.W.2d 7, 16 (Iowa 1977), Quoting Elmore v. American Motors Corp., 70 Cal.2d 578, 586, 75 Cal.Rptr. 652, 657, 451 P.2d 84, 89 (1969), that a bystander ought to be entitled to greater protection from defective products than a user because the bystander has no opportunity to protect himself. He also insists that the "unreasonably dangerous" element of Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 402A (1965) introduces an element of negligence into strict liability. He finds support for this contention in cases from other states which develop the strict liability doctrine to exclude this element: Barker v. Lull Engineering, Inc., 20 Cal.3d 413, 143 Cal.Rptr. 225, 573 P.2d 443 (1978); Cronin v. J. B. E. Olson Corp., 8 Cal.3d 121, 104 Cal.Rptr. 433, 501 P.2d 1153 (1972); Glass v. Ford Motor Co., 123 N.J.Super. 599, 304 A.2d 562 (1973); and Berkebile v. Brantley Helicopter Corp., 462 Pa. 83, 337 A.2d 893 (1975).

This court recently refused to eliminate the "unreasonably dangerous" element from strict liability cases where the plaintiff is a user of the product. Aller v. Rodgers Machinery Manufacturing Co., 268 N.W.2d 830, 834-35 (Iowa 1978). That opinion discussed the difference between negligence and the "unreasonably dangerous" requirement of section 402A. While negligence requires an examination of the manufacturer's actions in designing and producing the product, the "unreasonably dangerous" element involves a determination of the consumer's reasonable expectations regarding the product's characteristics. Aller, 268 N.W.2d at 835; Vincer v. Esther Williams All-Aluminum Swimming Pool Co., 69 Wis.2d 326, 332, 230 N.W.2d 794, 798-99 (1975). See also Blevins v. Cushman Motors, 551 S.W.2d 602, 607-08 (Mo.1977).

Some courts have excised the "unreasonably dangerous" element from section 402A, See, e. g., Cronin, 8 Cal.3d at 132-33, 104 Cal.Rptr. at 441, 501 P.2d at 1061-62; Azzarello v. Black Brothers Co., 480 Pa. 547, 559-60, 391 A.2d 1020, 1027 (1978), or have otherwise modified that requirement. Seattle-First National Bank v. Tabert, 86 Wash.2d 145, 154, 542 P.2d 774, 779 (1975) (liability imposed if a product is "not reasonably safe"). Others, however, have retained the element. Some of those retaining it have specifically rejected Cronin, see, e. g., Cepeda v. Cumberland Engineering Co., 76 N.J. 152, 178-80, 386 A.2d 816, 829 (1978); Vineyard v. Empire Machinery Co., 119 Ariz. 502, 504, 581 P.2d 1152, 1154 (Ct.App.1978); Kirkland v. General Motors Corp., 521 P.2d 1353, 1362-63 (Okl.1974), while others make no mention of that case. See, e. g., Blevins, 551 S.W.2d at 607; Vincer, 69 Wis.2d at 331, 230 N.W.2d at 798. Finally, one of plaintiff's primary authorities, Glass v. Ford Motor Co., 123 N.J.Super. 599, 304 A.2d 562 (1973), was specifically disapproved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in Cepeda, 76 N.J. at 180, 386 A.2d at 829. We have reexamined and reconsidered the authorities involved and have determined that this court's recent announcement in Aller must be followed here.

Nor are we inclined to extend liability in this case because plaintiff claims to have been a bystander. Neither the case which plaintiff cites for such an extension, Haumerson v. Ford Motor Co., 257 N.W.2d 7, 16 (Iowa 1977), nor the case which Haumerson quotes, Elmore v. American Motors Corp.,

Page 445

70 Cal.2d 578, 586, 75 Cal.Rptr. 652, 657, 451 P.2d 84, 89 (1969), actually extend liability to bystanders beyond that to users. They merely brought liability to bystanders in line with that to users. We are not persuaded of a need to indulge in the extension which plaintiff contends for in this case. Trial court was correct in requiring the jury to find that the combine was unreasonably dangerous.

II. Plaintiff's next contention is that trial court erroneously foreclosed the introduction of evidence of similar accidents which was offered to show that the combine was unreasonably dangerous. During the discovery process, plaintiff directed an interrogatory to Deere & Co. asking whether it had received any...

To continue reading

Request your trial
33 cases
  • Suter v. San Angelo Foundry & Mach. Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 31, 1979
    ......., Inc., 268 N.W.2d 830 (Iowa 1978), expressly approved in the even more recent case of Eickelberg v. Deere Co., 276 N.W.2d 442, 444 (Iowa 1979), which likewise comments approvingly on Cepeda at 276 ......
  • Reutzel v. Spartan Chemical Co., C 92-3075.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • October 6, 1995
    ...characteristics.'" Wernimont v. International Harvester Corp., 309 N.W.2d 137, 140 (Iowa Ct.App.1981) (quoting Eickelberg v. Deere & Co., 276 N.W.2d 442, 444 (Iowa 1979)). In Olson, 522 N.W.2d at 289, the Iowa Supreme Court held that the correct submission of a failure to warn claim is unde......
  • Burke v. Deere & Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • December 4, 1991
    ...in a strict liability action on a showing the other accidents were substantially similar to the one being tried. Eickelberg v. Deere & Co., 276 N.W.2d 442, 445 (Iowa 1979). It is within the trial court's sound judicial discretion to determine whether the other accidents are substantially si......
  • Caldwell v. Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., 5586
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 19, 1982
    ...71 A.D.2d 429, 422 N.Y.S.2d 969 (1979); Johantgen v. Hobart Mfg. Co., 64 A.D.2d 858, 407 N.Y.S.2d 355 (1978); Eickelberg v. Deere & Company, Iowa, 276 N.W.2d 442 (1979); JKT Co., Inc. v. Hardwick, 274 S.C. 413, 265 S.E.2d 510 (1980); Magic Chef, Inc. v. Sibley, Tex., 546 S.W.2d 851 (1977). ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT