State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Structo Div., King Seeley Thermos Co., 54S01-8906-CV-500

Citation540 N.E.2d 597
Case DateJune 30, 1989
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

DICKSON, Justice.

In this product liability action, the trial court granted the motion for judgment on the evidence filed by defendant Structo Division, King Seeley Thermos Company, at the close of evidence by plaintiff State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, on the ground that the product liability statute did not apply to bystanders on the date of the incident. The Court of Appeals for the First District affirmed. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Structo Div. (1988), Ind.App., 530 N.E.2d 116. In order to resolve the resulting conflict with Masterman v. Veldman's Equip., Inc. (1988), Ind.App., 530 N.E.2d 312, we grant transfer.

The 1978 Indiana Product Liability Act declared itself to be a codification and restatement of the common law of this state. Ind.Code Sec. 33-1-1.5-3 (1978). See Thiele v. Faygo Beverage, Inc. (1986), Ind.App., 489 N.E.2d 562. Prior to this codification, Indiana courts had recognized the rights of reasonably foreseeable bystanders to recover for injuries caused by defective products. Gilbert v. Stone City Constr. Co. (1976), 171 Ind.App. 418, 357 N.E.2d 738; Chrysler Corp. v. Alumbaugh (1976), 168 Ind.App. 363, 342 N.E.2d 908, reh'g denied, 168 Ind.App. 363, 348 N.E.2d 654. See Ayr-Way Stores v. Chitwood (1973), 261 Ind. 86, 300 N.E.2d 335 (four-year-old child-bystander injured by power lawnmower purchased by father). Without expressly mentioning bystanders, the 1978 Act described "user or consumer" as follows:

"User or consumer" shall include: a purchaser; any individual who uses or consumes a product; or any other person who, while acting for or on behalf of the injured party, was in possession and control of the product in question.

Ind.Code Sec. 33-1-1.5-2 (1978). In 1983 the legislature amended section 2 by adding language expressly including bystanders:

"User or consumer" means a purchaser, ..., or any bystander injured by the product who would normally be expected to be in the vicinity of the product during its reasonably expected use.

Ind.Code Sec. 33-1-1.5-2 (amended effective Sept. 1, 1983). The present action arose from a gas-grill fire occurring on August 26, 1983.

Notwithstanding Gilbert and Alumbaugh, the Court of Appeals majority in the present case reasoned that because the phrase "user or consumer" in section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, adopted in Indiana with Cornette v. Searjeant Metal Products, Inc. (1970), 147 Ind.App. 46, 258 N.E.2d 652, did not include bystanders, the 1978 Indiana Product Liability Act definition of "user or consumer" therefore excluded bystanders from the protection of the Act. Structo, 530 N.E.2d at 119. We disagree.

Because of the rule that legislative enactments in derogation of common law must be strictly construed and narrowly applied, Indiana State Highway Comm'n v. Morris (1988), Ind., 528 N.E.2d 468; Shake v. Board of Comm'rs, Sullivan County (19...

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26 cases
  • South Eastern Indiana Natural Gas Co., Inc. v. Ingram, 69A01-9208-CV-263
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 19, 1993
    ...the common law and does not intend any change. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Structo Division, King Seely Thermos Co. (1989), Ind., 540 N.E.2d 597, 598. The legislature's enactment of I.C. 8-1-2-107 was not intended to supplant the common law remedy or the law governing duties but merel......
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    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 31, 1990
    ...a strict product liability action at common law, State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Structo Div., King Seeley Thermos Co. (1989), Ind., 540 N.E.2d 597, 598, "user" includes those who are passively enjoying the benefit of the product as well as those who are utilizing it for the purpose of do......
  • Rogers v. Ford Motor Co., 3:94cv819 AS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 16, 1996 derogation of the common law, it must be strictly construed. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Structo Div., King Seeley Thermos Co., 540 N.E.2d 597, 598 (Ind.1989).7 It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that legislatures do not intend to make any changes in the common law ......
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    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • October 25, 1993
    ...either in express terms or by unmistakable implication. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Structo Div., King Seeley Thermos Co. (1989), Ind., 540 N.E.2d 597, 598. Granting immunity to law enforcement officers who fail to exercise reasonable care while driving would sanction negligent and reckle......
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