Koester v. Carolina Rental Center, Inc.

Decision Date01 December 1992
Docket NumberNo. 1950,1950
Citation311 S.C. 115,427 S.E.2d 708
CourtSouth Carolina Court of Appeals
PartiesDwight KOESTER, Appellant, v. CAROLINA RENTAL CENTER, INC., Respondent. . Heard

Robert H. Hood, John K. Blincow, Jr., Joseph C. Wilson, IV, Charleston, for respondent.

GARDNER, Judge:

This is a products liability case. Dwight Koester (Koester) sued Carolina Rental Center (Carolina Rental) for negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability. Koester was injured when he fell out of a tree while using equipment rented from Carolina Rental. The trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of Carolina Rental. Koester appeals. We affirm.

FACTS

The record reflects the following facts. The equipment rented by Koester consisted of leg attachments with gaffs or spikes for sticking in the tree and a belt or harness which went around the waist and hooked in the front attaching a seat. A safety strap, rope, or lanyard to go around the tree was not rented as part of the equipment. Carolina Rental did not rent the strap that went around the tree because the straps would fray or get torn, and could break, injuring the user and possibly provoking a lawsuit against it.

Koester was inexperienced at tree climbing and had never before rented equipment for that purpose. Although there is conflicting testimony, Koester claims that he did not receive any oral or written instructions when he rented the equipment. When he used the equipment, Koester attached his own rope to go around the tree. A few minutes after he tied the knot to attach the rope to the harness, the knot became untied and he fell approximately forty feet to the ground.

ISSUES

Koester argues that a jury could have found that: 1) the equipment was unreasonably dangerous and defective under strict liability because it was rented to an inexperienced user with no instructions or warnings as to its potential danger; 2) Carolina Rental was negligent for renting incomplete tree climbing equipment; 3) he was not contributorily negligent in attempting to use the equipment as rented; and 4) he did not voluntarily assume a known risk in using the equipment.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is clear that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence and the inferences should be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cafe Assoc., Ltd. v. Gerngross, 305 S.C. 6, 406 S.E.2d 162 (1991).

"In a products liability case the Plaintiff must establish three things, regardless of the theory on which he seeks recovery: 1) that he was injured by the product; 2) that the product, at the time of the accident, was in essentially the same condition as when it left the hands of the defendant; and 3) that the injury occurred because the product was in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user." Madden v. Cox, 284 S.C. 574, 579, 328 S.E.2d 108, 112 (Ct.App.1985) citing Prosser, Law of Torts 671-72 (4th ed. 1970). See also S.C.Code Ann. § 15-73-10 (1976) (South Carolina's strict liability statute).

The record reflects the following testimony:

Q. Was there anything wrong with the spikes, the gaffs that attached to your legs that caused you to fall, I mean, your feet didn't slip?

A. (Koester) No.

Q. Was there anything about the harness that didn't work like it was supposed to?

A. No.

Q. And the only part about the rope that didn't work was the knot?

A. Right.

Q. And that was the knot you tied?

A. Right....

Q. And there is no question that the knot coming loose is what caused the fall; is that right?

A. That's what happened.

This is the only evidence of record regarding the cause of Koester's injuries. From this testimony it is clear that, as a matter of law, the proximate cause of Koester's injury was the slipping of the knot which he himself tied. 1 Therefore, we hold that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the proximate cause of the injury Koester suffered.

Koester contends that the equipment was unreasonably dangerous and defective under strict liability because it was rented to an inexperienced user with no warnings as to its potential danger. We note that this contention is a hybrid of the law of strict liability and the law of negligence.

As to strict liability, Koester is statutorily barred under the facts of this case. S.C.Code Ann. § 15-73-20 (1976) provides:

§ 15-73-20. Situation in which recovery shall be barred.

If the user or consumer discovers the defect and is aware of the danger, and nevertheless proceeds unreasonably to make use of the product and is injured by it, he is barred from recovery.

We hold as a...

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4 cases
  • Anderson v. Green Bull, Inc.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • September 13, 1995
    ...generally known and recognized. Dema v. Shore Enters., Ltd., 312 S.C. 528, 435 S.E.2d 875 (Ct.App.1993); Koester v. Carolina Rental Ctr., 311 S.C. 115, 427 S.E.2d 708 (Ct.App.1993), rev'd on other grounds, 313 S.C. 490, 443 S.E.2d 392 (1994). It follows, then, that a product cannot be deeme......
  • Koester v. Carolina Rental Center, Inc.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • February 3, 1994
    ...Acting Chief Justice. We granted Dwight Koester's (Koester) petition for writ of certiorari to review Koester v. Carolina Rental Center, Inc., --- S.C. ----, 427 S.E.2d 708 (Ct.App.1993). Koester contends that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming summary judgment for Carolina Rental Cent......
  • Dema v. Shore Enterprises, Ltd., 2066
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • September 27, 1993
    ...277 S.C. 259, 286 S.E.2d 129 (1982). A product is not defective for failure to warn of the obvious. Koester v. Carolina Rental Center, Inc., --- S.C. ----, 427 S.E.2d 708 (Ct.App.1993); see Claytor, supra. The uncontroverted evidence, including Mr. Dema's own testimony, was that, even witho......
  • Blackmon v. Hinson, 1949
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • December 2, 1992
    ... ... Funderburk ... and The South Carolina Department of Highways and ... Public Transportation, ... ...

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