Hoffman v. Howmedica, Inc.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtBefore HENNESSEY; LIACOS
Citation373 Mass. 32,364 N.E.2d 1215
Decision Date06 July 1977
Parties, 21 UCC Rep.Serv. 1284 Manfred T. HOFFMAN et al. 1 v. HOWMEDICA, INC. Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Essex

Page 1215

364 N.E.2d 1215
373 Mass. 32, 21 UCC Rep.Serv. 1284
Manfred T. HOFFMAN et al. 1
v.
HOWMEDICA, INC.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Essex.
Argued March 10, 1977.
Decided July 6, 1977.

William H. Shaughnessy, Boston, for defendant.

[373 Mass. 33] Lawrence B. Wernick, Boston (Thomas D. Burns, Boston, with him), for plaintiffs.

Before [373 Mass. 32] HENNESSEY, C. J., and BRAUCHER, WILKINS, LIACOS and ABRAMS, JJ.

[373 Mass. 33] LIACOS, Justice.

The defendant appeals from judgments of the Superior Court awarding damages in

Page 1216

excess of $45,000 entered after jury verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs. The basis of the plaintiffs' claim was that the defendant was negligent and had breached its warranties of fitness and merchantability (G.L. c. 106, § 2-314) in the manufacture and sale of an artificial hip prosthesis, the failure of which after implantation by an appropriate surgical procedure caused the plaintiff Manfred T. Hoffman (the plaintiff) to suffer damage. The jury returned verdicts for the plaintiffs on the counts of the complaint which sought recovery based on the defendant's alleged breach of the implied warranty of merchantability and found for the defendant on the counts charging negligence. After the jury verdicts the defendant moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, Mass.R.Civ.P. 50(b), 365 Mass. 814 (1974), on the basis that there was no evidence of privity of contract between the parties at a time when the applicable law required privity as a basis for recovery in a warranty action. The trial judge denied the motion and entered judgments in accord with the jury verdicts. The defendant then filed a notice of appeal. On the motion of both parties we granted direct appellate review. The case is before the court on a statement of agreed facts approved by the trial judge. Mass.R.A.P. 8(d), 365 Mass. 849 (1974).

The facts, in so far as they are material, show that this case had its genesis on September 9, 1971, when the plaintiff underwent an operation to ameliorate a condition known as degenerative osteoarthritis. The operation by which a device manufactured by the defendant in August of that year was implanted in the plaintiff's hip was, as far as could be ascertained, successful.

The aura of apparent success remained until May, 1974, when the plaintiff found himself unable to bear any weight on the replaced joint without pain. A subsequent examination[373 Mass. 34] showed "a fracture and resulting separation between the rounded head and the narrowed neck of the metal femoral component of the prosthetic device." The condition was corrected by an operation on May 28, 1974. Expert testimony was presented at the trial relative to the defendant's negligence in the manufacture and testing of the device. The parties have stipulated for the purpose of this appeal that the evidence was sufficient to allow a finding that the defendant was negligent in the manufacture of the device and that the defendant had breached its implied warranties of fitness and merchantability.

In so far as the jury verdicts were based on the defendant's breach of implied warranty, and not negligence, the only issue for decision is whether the plaintiff may recover on that basis, in the absence of privity of contract with the defendant. G.L. c. 106, § 2-318, as appearing in St.1973, c. 750.

To put the issue in perspective, a brief review of the history of the section is in order. As it appeared originally in St.1957, c. 765, § 1, as part of the Commonwealth's adoption of the...

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161 practice notes
  • Farish for Farish v. Courion Industries, Inc., Nos. 82-1964
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • April 22, 1985
    ...Hantscho Co., Inc., 243 Ga. 91, 252 S.E.2d 623 (1979); Adams v. Buffalo Forge Company, 443 A.2d 932 (Me.1982); 11 Hoffman v. Howmedica, 373 Mass. 32, 364 N.E.2d 1215 (1977). The courts in those cases interpreted statutes varying both in policy, purpose and language from the Virginia statute......
  • LaClair v. Silberline Mfg. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 21, 1979
    ...964 (1978); Swartz v. General Motors Corp., --- Mass. --- (Mass.Adv.Sh. (1978) 1867), 378 N.E.2d 61 (1978); Hoffman v. Howmedica, Inc., 373 Mass. 32, 364 N.E.2d 1215...
  • Kelley v. Eli Lilly and Co., Civil Action No. 05-CV-1882 (RCL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 27, 2007
    ...378 N.E.2d 964 (1978). (citing See Swartz v. General Motors Corp., 375 Mass. 628, 629, 378 N.E.2d 61 (1978); Hoffman v. Howmedica, Inc., 373 Mass. 32, 364 N.E.2d 1215 (1977)). Since this Court finds that the plaintiff's breach of warranty claims fail, so to do the plaintiff's strict liabili......
  • Pielech v. Massasoit Greyhound, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 20, 1996
    ...595, 334 N.E.2d 617 (1975). "Statutory language is the principal source of insight into [l]egislative purpose. Hoffman v. Howmedica, Inc., 373 Mass. 32, 37, 364 N.E.2d 1215 (1977)." Commonwealth v. Lightfoot, 391 Mass. 718, 720, 463 N.E.2d 545 General Laws c. 151B, § 4(1A), declares unlawfu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
161 cases
  • Farish for Farish v. Courion Industries, Inc., Nos. 82-1964
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • April 22, 1985
    ...Hantscho Co., Inc., 243 Ga. 91, 252 S.E.2d 623 (1979); Adams v. Buffalo Forge Company, 443 A.2d 932 (Me.1982); 11 Hoffman v. Howmedica, 373 Mass. 32, 364 N.E.2d 1215 (1977). The courts in those cases interpreted statutes varying both in policy, purpose and language from the Virginia statute......
  • LaClair v. Silberline Mfg. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 21, 1979
    ...964 (1978); Swartz v. General Motors Corp., --- Mass. --- (Mass.Adv.Sh. (1978) 1867), 378 N.E.2d 61 (1978); Hoffman v. Howmedica, Inc., 373 Mass. 32, 364 N.E.2d 1215...
  • Kelley v. Eli Lilly and Co., Civil Action No. 05-CV-1882 (RCL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 27, 2007
    ...378 N.E.2d 964 (1978). (citing See Swartz v. General Motors Corp., 375 Mass. 628, 629, 378 N.E.2d 61 (1978); Hoffman v. Howmedica, Inc., 373 Mass. 32, 364 N.E.2d 1215 (1977)). Since this Court finds that the plaintiff's breach of warranty claims fail, so to do the plaintiff's strict liabili......
  • Pielech v. Massasoit Greyhound, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 20, 1996
    ...595, 334 N.E.2d 617 (1975). "Statutory language is the principal source of insight into [l]egislative purpose. Hoffman v. Howmedica, Inc., 373 Mass. 32, 37, 364 N.E.2d 1215 (1977)." Commonwealth v. Lightfoot, 391 Mass. 718, 720, 463 N.E.2d 545 General Laws c. 151B, § 4(1A), declares unlawfu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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