Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, No. 58556

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtMcDONALD; SUNDBERG
Citation404 So.2d 1049
PartiesFORD MOTOR COMPANY, Petitioner, v. Willie Lee HILL, et al., Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 58556
Decision Date23 July 1981

Page 1049

404 So.2d 1049
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Petitioner,
v.
Willie Lee HILL, et al., Respondents.
No. 58556.
Supreme Court of Florida.
July 23, 1981.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 12, 1981.

Aubrey V. Kendall, Timothy J. Norris and Edward T. O'Donnell of Mershon, Sawyer, Johnston, Dunwody & Cole, Miami, and James A. Dixon, Jr., of Dixon, Dixon, Hurst, Nicklaus & Webb, Miami, for petitioner.

Sheldon Schlesinger of Simons & Schlesinger, Fort Lauderdale, Walter H. Beckham, Jr., and Joel D. Eaton of Podhurst, Orseck & Parks, Miami, for Willie Lee Hill, et al.

K. P. Jones of the Law Offices of K. P. Jones, Fort Lauderdale, for Barkett Oil Co.

McDONALD, Justice.

After affirming a judgment against Ford Motor Company entered upon a jury verdict predicated on instructions of strict liability, the Fourth District Court of Appeal certified the following question to be of great public interest:

IS THE COMMON LAW NEGLIGENCE THEORY IN SECOND COLLISION CASES SET FORTH IN EVANCHO STILL VIABLE DESPITE THE ADOPTION OF STRICT LIABILITY IN WEST v. CATERPILLAR TRACTOR COMPANY, INC.?

Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 381 So.2d 249, 251 (Fla. 4th DCA 1979). 1 We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. We answer the question by holding that a plaintiff may

Page 1050

proceed in either strict liability or negligence, or both, and we approve the district court's decision.

The pertinent facts of the occurrence as set forth in the opinion of the district court are as follows:

The accident occurred when his (Hill's) tanker truck, overloaded and possessed of bald tires went out of control on a wet highway and spun around sliding backwards onto the median strip. The single unit truck carried over 4,000 pounds of gasoline and oil and when the rear wheels dug into the soft median, the tank tore loose gouging deeply into the soft median, then ground to a halt while the still moving cab slammed into it. This happenstance released two latch hooks securing the hinged cab and it snapped, whip-like, open and then shut again, causing the injuries.

381 So.2d at 250. The apparent reason for the release of the hooks was the forced bending of two parallel lever rods securing the hooks. This bending resulted from the force of the contact between these rods, exposed because of the separation of the tank from the body, and the tank itself. Hill contended that the hooks should have been attached to the lever rods in opposite directions from each other so that if the lever rods were bent in the same direction only one hook would release.

The original complaint, filed prior to publication of West v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 336 So.2d 80 (Fla.1976), did not contain a count in strict liability. After publication of West, however, the trial court ruled that the standard jury instruction on strict liability would be given. The district court affirmed the trial court's action, finding after reviewing the transcripts that the issue of strict liability was at least tried by the implied consent of all parties. Even though Hill did not originally term this action in strict liability, we find the allegations of fact sufficient to support this theory.

This Court recognizes that confusion might have been created by the adoption of strict liability for products liability cases in West and the Court's failure to enunciate what effect, if any, West would have on secondary collision claims and their theory of recovery. 2

In Ford Motor Co. v. Evancho, 327 So.2d 201 (Fla.1976), this Court faced the issue of whether automobile manufacturers could be held liable for defects in their cars which, although playing no part in causing a primary automobile collision, nevertheless increase or bring about injury to occupants through secondary impacts. At that time Evans v. General Motors Corp., 359 F.2d 822 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 836, 87 S.Ct. 83, 17 L.Ed.2d 70 (1966), and Larsen v. General Motors Corp., 391 F.2d 495 (8th Cir.1968), expressed the two opposing viewpoints. We adopted the Larsen view, "that the manufacturer must use reasonable care in design and manufacture of its product to eliminate unreasonable risk of foreseeable injury." 327 So.2d at 204. In explaining the Larsen rationale we stated:

This theory (for secondary collision cases) does not impose liability on a basis of warranty or strict tort liability; rather, it recognizes a duty of reasonable care on automobile manufacturers based on common law negligence.

327 So.2d at 203.

West was published five months after Evancho. Without mentioning secondary collision situations, the Court held that a manufacturer may be held liable under the theory of strict liability in tort for injury to a user of a product or a bystander to its use. Because Evancho's negligence approach was not discussed, the issue has arisen as to whether strict liability in tort as well as negligence is a proper theory for enhanced injury cases.

We see no reason to create an illusory distinction between manufacturers

Page 1051

whose products cause a primary collision and those whose products merely enhance or bring about further injury. It would be unreasonable to have the availability of the strict liability theory depend on the cause of the accident rather than the cause of the injury. As stated in West,

strict liability should be imposed only when a product the manufacturer places on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that...

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35 practice notes
  • Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., No. CivA. 2:96-1269-11.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • December 2, 1999
    ...crashworthiness doctrine. See, e.g., Andrews v. Harley Davidson, Inc., 106 Nev. 533, 796 P.2d 1092, 1095 (1990); Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1052 (Fla.1981); Leichtamer v. American Motors Corp., 67 Ohio St.2d 456, 424 N.E.2d 568, 577 (1981); Ford Motor Co. v. Stubblefield, 171 G......
  • Taylor v. General Motors Corp., No. 87-5829
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • June 14, 1989
    ...about injury to occupants through secondary impacts against the interior of their cars during a collision. See Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1050-51 (Fla.1981). The court has recognized two theories of strict liability for such design defects. See generally In re Standard Jury Ins......
  • In re Standard Jury Insts. in Civil Cases—Report No. 09–10 (Prods. Liab.), No. SC09–1264.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 17, 2012
    ...against its utility.” It also explains that the instruction was adopted in response to this Court's opinion in Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1052 n. 4 (Fla.1981), which directed the Committee to improve its products liability jury instruction. In the proposed notes on use, paragra......
  • Bugosh v. I.U. North America, Inc., No. 7 WAP 2008.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 16, 2009
    ...even though the manufacturer has `exercised all possible care' in the preparation of his product."); accord Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1051 (Fla.1981) (explaining that "analysis of whether a product is in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user involves a negli......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
36 cases
  • Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., No. CivA. 2:96-1269-11.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • December 2, 1999
    ...crashworthiness doctrine. See, e.g., Andrews v. Harley Davidson, Inc., 106 Nev. 533, 796 P.2d 1092, 1095 (1990); Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1052 (Fla.1981); Leichtamer v. American Motors Corp., 67 Ohio St.2d 456, 424 N.E.2d 568, 577 (1981); Ford Motor Co. v. Stubblefield, 171 G......
  • Taylor v. General Motors Corp., No. 87-5829
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • June 14, 1989
    ...about injury to occupants through secondary impacts against the interior of their cars during a collision. See Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1050-51 (Fla.1981). The court has recognized two theories of strict liability for such design defects. See generally In re Standard Jury Ins......
  • In re Standard Jury Insts. in Civil Cases—Report No. 09–10 (Prods. Liab.), No. SC09–1264.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 17, 2012
    ...against its utility.” It also explains that the instruction was adopted in response to this Court's opinion in Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1052 n. 4 (Fla.1981), which directed the Committee to improve its products liability jury instruction. In the proposed notes on use, paragra......
  • Bugosh v. I.U. North America, Inc., No. 7 WAP 2008.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 16, 2009
    ...even though the manufacturer has `exercised all possible care' in the preparation of his product."); accord Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1051 (Fla.1981) (explaining that "analysis of whether a product is in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user involves a negli......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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