Huset v. J. I. Case Threshing Mach. Co., 1,790.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation120 F. 865
Docket Number1,790.
PartiesHUSET v. J. I. CASE THRESHING MACH. CO.
Decision Date26 February 1903

120 F. 865

HUSET
v.
J. I. CASE THRESHING MACH.
CO.

No. 1,790.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

February 26, 1903


Syllabus by the Court.

It is the general rule that a contractor, manufacturer, or vendor is not liable to third parties who have no contractual relations with him for negligence in the construction, manufacture, or sale of the articles he handles.

An act of negligence of a manufacturer or vendor which is imminently dangerous to human life or health, and which occurs in the preparation or sale of articles, like foods and poisons, whose primary use is to preserve, destroy, or affect life and health, is actionable by parties who have no contractual relations with the manufacturer or vendor.

An owner who impliedly invites third parties to use defective machines or instruments manufactured or furnished by him is liable to them for injuries resulting from his negligence in the manufacture or care of them.

A manufacturer or vendor, who, without giving notice of its character or qualities, supplies or delivers to another a machine or article which, at the time of delivery, he knows to be imminently dangerous to the life or limbs of any one who may use it for the purpose for which it is intended, is liable to any one who sustains injury from its dangerous condition, whether he has any contractual relations with him or not.

Halvor Steenerson (Charles Loring, on the brief), for plaintiff in error.

W. E. Black (Alfred L. Cary and Horace A. J. Upham, on the brief), for defendant in error.

This writ of error was sued out to reverse a judgment sustaining a demurrer to the amended complaint of O. S. Huset, the plaintiff below and the plaintiff in error here, in an action for personal injury, which he brought against the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, a corporation. These are the facts which the complaint discloses: The threshing machine company was a corporation engaged in the manufacture and sale of threshing rigs, which consisted of an engine, a separator, a band-cutter, and self-feeder. The band-cutter and self-feeder consisted of a series of fast revolving knives covered with a sheet-iron covering and a frame designed to fit into the front of the separator in which the cylinder was located. The cylinder was made of iron and steel about 48 inches in length and 20 inches in diameter, set with rows of steel teeth and spikes projecting about two inches, and so placed as to pass between similar teeth in a concave frame in front of and under the cylinder. When the machine was in operation, this cylinder revolved at a very high rate of speed with great force, and threshed the grain. The self-feeder and band-cutter was designed to be fastened to the separator, and its sheet-iron covering fitted onto the front of the separator just above and over the front part of the cylinder so as to cover the cylinder completely. The object and design of the defendant in placing this covering over the cylinder was that it should be used by any person who might operate the machine to walk upon in passing from the top of the main part of the thresher to the self-feeder. This sheet-iron covering was made without any support, and was so pliable and easily bent that it was incapable of sustaining the least weight, and would necessarily bend and collapse when subjected to the weight of any man who might walk or step upon it. It was necessary for the operator [120 F. 866] to walk over the covering of the cylinder in operating the machine. This machine, covered in this way, was imminently and necessarily dangerous to the life and limbs of those who operated it, and it was well known to be thus dangerous by the defendant when it shipped the same and supplied it to the purchaser, J. H. Pifer; but this dangerous condition was of such a nature as not to be readily discovered by persons engaged in operating the machine or working thereon, but was concealed, and thereby rendered more dangerous still. On August 25, 1901, the defendant sold this threshing outfit to J. H. Pifer, who started to operate it on the next day, and employed the plaintiff, O. S. Huset, as a laborer to assist him in running it. It became the duty of the plaintiff to walk upon the top of the machine over the cylinder while it was in operation in order to superintend the pitching of bundles into the self-feeder, to prevent its clogging, and to oil the bearings of the parts of the cylinder and band-cutter. When he walked upon the covering of the cylinder, this covering sank so as to come in contact with the cylinder, and the plaintiff's right foot was caught thereby, and his foot and leg were drawn into it and crushed to a point above the knee joint, so that it was necessary to amputate the leg above the knee. The demurrer to this complaint rests upon the ground that the defendant owed no duty to the plaintiff, who was a stranger to the transaction between the defendant, the manufacturer, and vendor of the threshing machine, and the vendee, Pifer. The court sustained the demurrer, and dismissed the action.

Before CALDWELL, SANBORN, and THAYER, Circuit Judges.

SANBORN, Circuit Judge, after stating the case as above.

Is a manufacturer or vendor of an article or machine which he knows, when he sells it, to be imminently dangerous, by reason of a concealed defect therein, to the life and limbs of any one who shall use it for the purpose for which it was made and intended, liable to a stranger to the contract of sale for an injury which he sustains from the concealed defect while he is lawfully applying the article or machine to its intended use?

The argument of this question has traversed the whole field in which the liability of contractors, manufacturers, and vendors to strangers to their contracts for negligence in the construction or sale of their articles has been contested. The decisions which have been cited are not entirely harmonious, and it is impossible to reconcile all of them with any established rule of law. And yet the underlying principle of the law of negligence, that it is the duty of every one to so act himself and to so use his property as to do no unnecessary damage to his neighbors, leads us fairly through the maze. With this fundamental principle in mind, if we contemplate the familiar rules that every one is liable for the natural and probable effects of his acts; that negligence is a breach of a duty; that an injury that is the natural and probable consequence of an act of negligence is actionable, while one that could not have been foreseen or reasonably anticipated as the probable effect of such an act is not actionable, because the act of negligence in such a case is the remote, and not the proximate, cause of the injury; and that, for the same reason, an injury is not actionable which would not have resulted from an act of negligence except from the interposition [120 F. 867] of an independent cause (Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha R. Co. v. Elliott, 55 F. 949, 5 C.C.A. 347, 20 L.R.A. 582)-- nearly all the decisions upon this subject range themselves along symmetrical lines, and establish rational rules of the law of negligence consistent with the basic principles upon which it rests.

Actions for negligence are for breaches of duty. Actions on contracts are for breaches of agreements. Hence the limits of liability for negligence are for breaches of agreements. Hence the limits of liability for negligence are not the limits of liability for breaches of contracts, and actions for negligence often accrue where actions upon contracts do not arise, and vice versa. It is a rational and fair deduction from the rules to which brief reference has been made that one who makes or sells a machine, a building, a tool, or an article of merchandise designed and fitted for a specific use is liable to the person who, in the natural course of events, used it for the purpose for which it was made or sold, for an injury which is the natural and probable consequence of the negligence of the manufacturer or vendor in its construction or sale. But when a contractor builds a house or a bridge, or a manufacturer constructs a car or a carriage, for the owner thereof, under a special contract with him, an injury to any other person than the owner for whom the article is built and to whom it is delivered cannot ordinarily be foreseen or reasonably anticipated as the probably result of the negligence in its construction. So, when a manufacturer sells articles to the wholesale or retail dealers, or to those who are to use them, injury to third persons is not generally the natural or probably effect of nigligence in their manufacture. because (1) such a result cannot ordinarily be reasonably anticipated, and because (2) an independent cause-- the responsible human agency of the purchaser-- without which the injury to the third person would not occur, intervenes, and, as Wharton says, 'insulates' the negligence of the manufacturer from the injury to the third person. Wharton on Law of...

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150 practice notes
  • Floor Craft Floor Covering, Inc. v. Parma Community General Hosp. Ass'n, Nos. 89-1044 and 89-1045
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • September 19, 1990
    ...manufacturers from liability for the sale of defective products, see, e.g., Huset v. J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. (C.A.8, 1903), 120 F. 865, and professionals from liability for malpractice, see, e.g., Savings Bank v. Ward (1879), 100 U.S. 195, 25 L.Ed. 621 (attorneys); Ultramares Corp. ......
  • El Bouamri v. City of New Haven, CV176069792S
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • August 10, 2018
    ...in the preparation or sale of an article intended to preserve, destroy, or affect human life’; Huset v. J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co., 120 F. 865, 870 (8th Cir. 1903); (2) ‘an owner’s act of negligence which causes injury to one who is invited by him to use his defective appliance upon th......
  • Potter v. Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co., No. SC
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 27, 1997
    ...in the preparation or sale of an article intended to preserve, destroy, or affect human life"; Huset v. J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co., 120 F. 865, 870 (8th Cir.1903); (2) "an owner's act of negligence which causes injury to one who is invited by him to use his defective appliance upon the......
  • THE SS SAMOVAR, No. 23891-R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 24, 1947
    ..."intended to preserve, destroy or affect human life" (i. e. drugs and explosives). Huset v. J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co., 8 Cir., 1903, 120 F. 865, 868-870, 61 L.R.A. 303. And the leading authority in support of this rule was an English case, Winterbottom v. Wright, Ex. 1842, 10 M. & W.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
150 cases
  • Floor Craft Floor Covering, Inc. v. Parma Community General Hosp. Ass'n, Nos. 89-1044 and 89-1045
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • September 19, 1990
    ...manufacturers from liability for the sale of defective products, see, e.g., Huset v. J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. (C.A.8, 1903), 120 F. 865, and professionals from liability for malpractice, see, e.g., Savings Bank v. Ward (1879), 100 U.S. 195, 25 L.Ed. 621 (attorneys); Ultramares Corp. ......
  • El Bouamri v. City of New Haven, CV176069792S
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • August 10, 2018
    ...in the preparation or sale of an article intended to preserve, destroy, or affect human life’; Huset v. J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co., 120 F. 865, 870 (8th Cir. 1903); (2) ‘an owner’s act of negligence which causes injury to one who is invited by him to use his defective appliance upon th......
  • Potter v. Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co., No. SC
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 27, 1997
    ...in the preparation or sale of an article intended to preserve, destroy, or affect human life"; Huset v. J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co., 120 F. 865, 870 (8th Cir.1903); (2) "an owner's act of negligence which causes injury to one who is invited by him to use his defective appliance upon the......
  • THE SS SAMOVAR, No. 23891-R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 24, 1947
    ..."intended to preserve, destroy or affect human life" (i. e. drugs and explosives). Huset v. J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co., 8 Cir., 1903, 120 F. 865, 868-870, 61 L.R.A. 303. And the leading authority in support of this rule was an English case, Winterbottom v. Wright, Ex. 1842, 10 M. & W.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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