McClung v. Ford Motor Company, Civ. A. No. 599 BK.

Decision Date05 November 1971
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 599 BK.
Citation333 F. Supp. 17
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
PartiesRobert R. McCLUNG, Plaintiff, v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant.

David J. Joel, Wheeling, W. Va., Pat R. Hamilton, Oak Hill, W. Va., for plaintiff.

Donald D. Hodson, Beckley, W. Va., for defendant.


KNAPP, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Robert R. McClung, brought this action to recover damages for injuries caused by the alleged negligent design of a 1965 Ford Mustang manufactured by the defendant, Ford Motor Company. The basis of plaintiff's complaint is that the defendant was negligent in designing the vehicle, made misrepresentations with reference thereto, and breached an express and implied warranty of fitness for the purpose for which the vehicle was intended to be used.

The complaint asserts the plaintiff was involved in a collision with another vehicle in January, 1966, on U.S. Route 19, in Nicholas County, West Virginia, and that as a result of the defendant's negligent design of the vehicle plaintiff was driving, plaintiff was severely injured. In answers to interrogatories filed by plaintiff on March 24, 1969, plaintiff stated that the 1965 Ford Mustang driven by the plaintiff had the following defects in design and manufacture: a rigid steering wheel, a rigid steering column, a non-collapsible steering wheel and steering column, a steering wheel that was not padded, a horn rim that was not padded nor indented, a shoulder-harness seat belt was not provided, and the lack of seat locks to lock the rear or back portion of the drivers seat into position. The answers to said interrogatories further charge that the injury to plaintiff was a result of the impact between plaintiff and the steering wheel and the steering column. The plaintiff, who was wearing at the time a lap seat belt, was allegedly thrown against the steering wheel and the steering column at impact. This impact allegedly resulted in plaintiff's total blindness.

On October 8, 1969, the defendant, Ford Motor Company, filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on the ground that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the defendant, as a matter of law under the facts alleged, was not liable to the plaintiff. Depositions of the plaintiff and Clarence S. Bruce, a traffic accident analyst, and interrogatories submitted by defendant and answers made by plaintiff were filed prior to the motion. Both plaintiff and defendant also submitted briefs on the issues of law raised by the motion.

The question before this Court for determination is the nature of the duty which an automobile manufacturer owes to the users of its products. This is an issue of law to be determined by the Court. Evans v. General Motors Corporation, 359 F.2d 822 (7th Cir. 1966), cert. den. 385 U.S. 836, 87 S.Ct. 83, 17 L.Ed.2d 70 (1966). There is no contention in the instant case that the automobile driven by plaintiff was not operational and functional as a mode of transportation and not safe for such use. On the contrary, plaintiff alleges that the defendant's negligent or defective design, while not causing the accident, added to the seriousness or gravity of the injuries. The question of liability of manufacturers in these so-called "second collision" cases, i. e., those cases wherein subsequent to the initial impact of the collision of two vehicles the passenger or driver of one of the vehicles suffers a second collision with the interior of his car, is thus presented to this Court. This question is a novel one in this jurisdiction and the Court is fully aware of conflicting authorities in other jurisdictions. Plaintiff relies primarily on the case of Larson v. General Motors, 391 F.2d 495 (8th Cir. 1968), whereas the defendant relies on Evans v. General Motors Corporation, supra.

In the Larson case, supra, plaintiff was injured in a head-on automobile collision. The steering mechanism was pushed backward into plaintiff's head. The Court, in reversing a summary judgment award in favor of the defendant, pointed out that while automobiles are not made for the purpose of colliding with one another, this is a frequent and inevitable contingency of normal automobile use and that no rational basis exists for limiting recovery to situations where the defect and design of the manufacturer was the causative factor of the accident, reasoning that the accident and the resulting injury, usually caused by the so-called "second collision" of the passenger with the interior part of the automobile, is foreseeable.

In Evans v. General Motors Corporation, supra, an action was brought by the personal representative of the decedent's estate to recover damages on the ground that decedent's death was caused by the alleged negligent design of the automobile manufactured by the defendant. The decedent's station wagon was struck by another vehicle whereupon the station wagon collapsed. The station wagon was designed with an "x-frame" which did not have side frame rails to protect the driver involved in side impact collisions. Plaintiff asserted that this was a dangerous and defective condition thus proximately causing the fatal injuries of the decedent. The Court therein found that the manufacturer is not under a...

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13 cases
  • Volkswagen of America, Inc. v. Young
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 8 July 1974
    ...has no duty to design the vehicle so as not to increase unreasonably the risk of injury following a collision are McClung v. Ford Motor Company, 333 F.Supp. 17 (S.D.W.Va.1971), aff'd per curiam 472 F.2d 240 (4th Cir. 1973); Shumard v. General Motors Corporation, 270 F.Supp. 311 (S.D. Ohio 1......
  • Sealey v. Ford Motor Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • 29 July 1980
    ...580 P.2d 1123 (Wyo.1978). Apparently only two jurisdictions which have considered it now fail to follow it. McClung v. Ford Motor Co., 333 F.Supp. 17 (S.D.W.Va.1971), aff'd, 472 F.2d 240 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 412 U.S. 940, 93 S.Ct. 2779, 37 L.Ed.2d 400 (1973); Walton v. Chrysler Motor C......
  • Baker v. Chrysler Corp.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 25 February 1976
    ...349 F.Supp. 761, 764--765; see also Dreisonstok v. Volkswagenwerk, A.G. (4 Cir. 1974)489 F.2d 1066, 1073; McClung v. Ford Motor Co. (S.D.W.Va.1971) 333 F.Supp. 17, 21 (cert. den. 412 U.S. 940, 93 S.Ct. 2779, 37 L.Ed.2d 400).) Strict liability in tort is not a doctrine which places upon the ......
  • Frericks v. General Motors Corp.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 March 1974
    ...Chrysler Corp., 264 F.Supp. 1010 (D.C.S.D.Tex.1967) General Motors Corp. v. Muncy, 367 F.2d 493 (CCA 5 1966) West Virginia McClung v. Ford Motor Co., 333 F.Supp. 17 (D.C.S.D.W.Va., Beckley Div.) (Affirmed 472 F.2d 240, CCA 4 We do not deem it of value to delineate the facts or the reasons g......
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