Matthews v. Lawnlite Co.

Citation88 So.2d 299
PartiesGerald G. MATTHEWS, Appellant, v. LAWNLITE COMPANY, a corporation, Appellee.
Decision Date25 May 1956
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

Carey & Harrison, St. Petersburg, for appellant.

Arthur W. Primm, Miami, for appellee.

TERRELL, Justice.

Appellant was plaintiff and appellee was defendant below. In his second amended complaint plaintiff alleged that defendant was engaged in the business of manufacturing aluminum outdoor furniture and selling it to the public through retail merchants or distributors; that on or about March 27, 1954, defendant sold and delivered one or more pieces of such furniture to Dean's Tropical Furniture Shop, a retailer located in St. Petersburg, Florida; that on the date last mentioned plaintiff was in Dean's Tropical Furniture Shop examining furniture with the view of purchasing and sat in a lounge chair manufactured by defendant. 'As plaintiff sat in said chair he laid his right hand on the right hand arm rest of said chair and the third finger of said right hand extended over the front of the right hand arm rest and under the front end thereof. Thereupon his said third finger of his right hand was completely severed by the moving parts of said chair and the finger fell upon the floor.' A motion to dismiss the complaint was granted and this appeal was prosecuted from said order.

The point for determination is whether or not the manufacturer of lawn chairs is liable for injuries to a customer or potential purchaser inflicted on him when examining one of said chairs in the store of a retailer with the view of purchasing. The injury to said customer was caused from clipping off one of his fingers by a mechanism concealed under the arm of said chair.

Appellee contends that this question should be answered in the negative and supports its contention with Poretz v. R. H. Macy & Co., Inc., Sup., 119 N.Y.S.2d 211; Liedeker v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 249 App.Div. 835, 292 N.Y.S. 541; Id., 274 N.Y. 631, 10 N.E.2d 586, and similar cases. These cases have been examined and hold that there is no liability where the hazards complained of are apparent to the plaintiff; they also subscribe to the doctrine that the plaintiff can not recover for injury sustained as a result of his own careless and negligent conduct.

These cases also modify the early common law rule which inhibited recovery where there was absence of privity of contract. Huset v. J. I. Case Thrashing Mach. Co., 8 Cir., 120 F. 865, 61 L.R.A. 303; 86 A.L.R. 949; MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050, L.R.A.1916F, 696, Ann.Cas.1916C, 440. While these and other cases reveal the early pattern of thought in cases of this kind, there is a rash of later cases which also reveal a more humane or reasonable trend of decisions in the disposition of such cases. Statler v. George A. Ray Mfg. Co., 195 N.Y. 478, 88 N.E. 1063; Devlin v. Smith, 89 N.Y. 470, 42 Am.Rep. 311; Parks v. C. C. Yost Pie Co., 93 Kan. 334, 144 P. 202, L.R.A.1915C, 179; Catani v. Swift & Co., 251 Pa. 52, 95 A. 931, L.R.A.1917B, 1272; Flies v. Fox Bros. Buick Co., 196 Wis. 196, 218 N.W. 855, 60 A.L.R. 357; Heckel v. Ford Motor Co., 101 N.J.L. 385, 128 A. 242, 39 A.L.R. 989, and many others might be cited.

These and other cases have so often departed from or modified the old theory that an innocent third party who purchases from a retailer can not sue a manufacturer because of absence of privity of contract that the doctrine may be said to have been abandoned in many jurisdictions. A doctrine more in line with reason and justice has been substituted for it and may be said to have been crystallized in Restatement of the Law of Torts, Sec. 398, Vol. 2, page 1084, as follows:

'A manufacturer of a chattel made under a plan or design which makes it dangerous for the uses for which it is manufactured is subject to liability to others whom he should expect to use the chattel lawfully or to be in the vicinity of its probable use, for bodily harm caused by his failure to exercise reasonable care in the adoption of...

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65 cases
  • Gregory v. Cincinnati Inc.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 15 Agosto 1995
    ...will be held liable for failure to attach a point-of-manufacture warning to the product. Id. at 57, 143 N.W. 48. Accord Matthews v. Lawnlite Co., 88 So.2d 299 (Fla.1956). See also Noel, Manufacturer's negligence of design or directions for use of a product, 71 Yale L.J. 816, 820-822 (1962).......
  • Indemnity Ins. Co. v. American Aviation
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 23 Diciembre 2004
    ...result of the intended use of the product, because of the absence of privity of contract with the manufacturer. See Matthews v. Lawnlite Co., 88 So.2d 299, 300 (Fla.1956) (noting that "the early common law rule . . . inhibited recovery [from a manufacturer of a product] where there was abse......
  • Nelson v. Union Wire Rope Corp., Gen. No. 48164
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 4 Enero 1963
    ...with it an absolute liability which runs with the chattel, eliminating the necessity of any kind of privity, citing Matthews v. Lawnlite Co., 88 So.2d 299 (Florida, 1956), and Carter v. Hector Supply Co., 128 So.2d 390 (Florida, Because of the view we take of the scope of such a warranty, i......
  • Nelson v. Union Wire Rope Corp., 37795
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 18 Marzo 1964
    ...of Torts, (Propper v. Kesner (Fla.1958) 104 So.2d 1; Tampa Drug Co. v. Wait (Fla.1958), 103 So.2d 603, 75 A.L.R.2d 765; Matthews v. Lawnlite Co. (Fla.1958), 88 So.2d 299,) where the doctrine is stated in this manner: '(1) One who gratuitously renders services to another, * * * is subject to......
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