Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Morris

Decision Date02 November 1961
Docket Number6 Div. 435
Citation136 So.2d 883,273 Ala. 218
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Frank M. Young, and Spain, Gillon & Young, Birmingham, for appellant.

Jenkins & Cole, Birmingham, for appellee.

GOODWYN, Justice.

This is an appeal by Sears, Roebuck & Company, one of the defendants below, from a judgment of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County rendered on a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff-appellee, William Morris, and also from a judgment overruling said defendant's motion for a new trial.

This is a so-called 'products liability' case, based on negligence, which appellee brought against Sears, Billy Joe Grogan and XYZ, to recover damages for personal injuries received by him when a metal wheel on a boat trailer 'split, disintegrated, and flew apart' while appellee was inflating the innertube in the tire on the wheel at the service station where he was employed.

The defendant XYZ was stricken as a party by appellee.

The trial court gave the affirmative charge in favor of defendant Grogan, which action is not questioned on this appeal.

Appellee received his injuries while working as a repairman at an automobile service station in Talladega when he was placing air in a tire (with innertube) mounted on a metal wheel of a small boat trailer. The trailer was brought to the service station by defendant Grogan to have the tire checked for a leak. In order to remove the tire for checking, it was necessary to disassemble the wheel, which was made of die cast aluminum, consisting of two halves joined together with six removable bolts. The wheel was off the axle when appellee started working on the tire. He removed the six bolts, thus permitting the separation of the two halves of the wheel and the removal of the tire and innertube for checking. Grease covered the surfaces of the halves on the sides where they joined. Since the wheel had not been disassembled prior to this time, it is apparent that the grease was there when the wheel was originally assembled. In addition to the six bolt holes, there were on each half of the wheel two 'projections' and two 'depression,' also referred to in the testimony as 'pimples' and 'dimples,' their purpose being to prevent the two halves from slipping when bolted together by having the 'projections' on one half fit in the 'depressions' on the other half. From an examination of a new wheel like the one involved in this suit, which was introduced in evidence and sent up for our inspection, it is apparent that the six bolt holes in the two halves of the wheel can be matched up without the 'projections' being matched with the 'depressions.' From an examination of the fractured or exploded wheel, also sent up for our examination, and the other evidence, it is apparent that the 'projections' were not matched with the 'depressions' when the wheel was reassembled by appellee. No instructions were on the wheel as to the manner of assembling it, nor was there any warning of any danger in assembling it and inflating a tire mounted on it without having the 'projections' matched with the 'depressions.'

There were no apparent cracks or fractures in the wheel when appellee took it apart. After disassembling it, appellee checked the innertube for leaks. Finding none, he proceeded to reassemble the wheel. From the evidence, it is not clear whether appellee knew that each half contained 'projections' which should be matched with 'depressions' on the other half. From an examination of the fractured wheel, it appears that the grease on the two halves partially obscured the presence of the 'projections' and 'depressions.' Appellee testified that he knew how to take the wheel apart and put it back together, but also testified to the effect that the wheel could not be put back wrong 'because the holes wouldn't match up.' He also gave affirmative answers to the following questions: 'Did all the holes match up? Did these little projecting things in there (indicating), were those things together?' After reassembling the wheel with the tire mounted on it, appellee applied the air hose to the valve stem of the innertube and then placed his finger over the valve stem. The wheel then exploded, causing appellee's injury.

The trailer was purchased by one James Hilyer from Sears' retail store in Sylacauga in September, 1953. He sold it to defendant Grogan in the spring of 1955. Hilyer and Grogan had used the trailer frequently, Hilyer having driven it some three to five thousand miles and Grogan from two to three thousand miles. It had been driven at various speeds and over all kinds of roads before the mishap on July 30, 1956. As already noted, the wheel had not been taken apart since its purchase from Sears.

Sears purchased the trailer from Dunbar Kapple, Inc., and sold it under its trade name 'Elgin.' The wheels on the trailer were purchased by Dunbar Kapple from Kamin Die Casting & Manufacturing Company, located in Chicago.

A decisive question in the case concerns the liability of Sears as the retailer of the trailer (of which the exploded wheel was a part) which Sears sold under its trade name 'Elgin.' This is the first time we have had such a situation before us. However, we have had occasion to deal with the so-called 'manufacturers' liability doctrine' as expounded by Judge Cardozo in the celebrated case of MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050, L.R.A.1916F, 696, Ann.Cas.1916C, 440. Among our cases are the following: ...

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  • Stein v. Pfizer Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 31, 2016
    ...171 N.Y.S.2d 770 (1958) ; Rauch v. American Radiator & Standard San. Corp., 252 Iowa 1, 104 N.W.2d 607 (1960) ; Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Morris, 273 Ala. 218, 136 So.2d 883 (1961) ; Carney v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 309 F.2d 300 (4th Cir.1962) (applying Virginia law) ; Ford Motor Co. v. Mathis......
  • Stein v. Inc, 1231
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 31, 2016
    ...171 N.Y.S.2d 770 (App. Div. 1958); Rauch v. American Radiator & Standard San. Corp., 104 N.W.2d 607 (Iowa 1960); Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Morris, 136 So. 2d 883 (Ala. 1961); Carney v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 309 F.2d 300 (4th Cir. 1962) (applying Virginia law); Ford Motor Co. v. Mathis, 322 F.......
  • Medley v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Alabama
    • June 1, 1979
    ...Doctrine" applies to non-manufacturing vendors. Blitzstein v. Ford Motor Co., 288 F.2d 738 (5th Cir. 1961); Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Morris, 273 Ala. 218, 136 So.2d 883 (1962). Here the United States supplied M-817 dump trucks to the Alabama National Guard. While it did not retain responsibi......
  • McQuivey v. Fulmer Helmets, Inc.
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • July 31, 2014
    ...statute as stated in Freeman v. United Cities Propane Gas, Inc., 807 F.Supp. 1533, 1539–40 (M.D.Ga.1992) ; Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Morris, 273 Ala. 218, 136 So.2d 883, 885 (1961) ; Cravens, Dargan & Co. v. Pacific Indem. Co., 29 Cal.App.3d 594, 105 Cal.Rptr. 607, 611 (1972) ; King v. Dougla......
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