West v. Broderick & Bascom Rope Co., 54525

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation197 N.W.2d 202
Docket NumberNo. 54525,54525
PartiesPaul Allen WEST and Eleanor Juanita West, Appellees, v. BRODERICK & BASCOM ROPE COMPANY, Appellant.
Decision Date13 April 1972

Page 202

197 N.W.2d 202
Paul Allen WEST and Eleanor Juanita West, Appellees,
No. 54525.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
April 13, 1972.

Page 204

Jones, Hoffmann & Davison, Des Moines, for appellant.

Hawkins, Hedberg & Ward, Des Moines, for appellees.


The main problem in this products liability case relates to a manufacturer's duty of care to the ultimate user of a product--in this case, a wire rope sling.

The functions and responsibilities of four groups or entities are involved: workmen in the ironworker craft, their employer, the manufacturer of the sling, and the retail seller of the sling.

The ironworkers of Des Moines, Iowa, are organized in a craft union. Entry into the union is by apprenticeship--working with experienced men and learning the trade. The journeyman ironworker is higher skilled and therefore commands a good wage. One of the articles ironworkers most frequently use is wire rope in various forms including slings. Ironworkers profess to be expert in the use of wire rope, know from experience the size rope to use in particular applications, and realize that worn or damaged rope is dangerous and must be discarded. Their union publishes information on the use and capacity of wire rope. Ironworkers frequently use wire rope to move heavy objects, such as machinery; indeed, because of their specialized knowledge they claim exclusive jurisdiction in the labor field to do that kind of work.

The employer of the ironworkers involved here is Arthur H. Neumann &

Page 205

Brothers, Inc., an old and experienced Des Moines construction company which has a substantial number of employees. For years Neumann has engaged in moving heavy machinery and is thoroughly familiar with that work.

The manufacturer of the sling in question is Broderick & Bascom Rope Company, which has engaged in that business for nearly a century. Broderick & Bascom has a number of plants and employees, including engineers, and is fully acquainted with the manufacture of wire rope. To control the quality of its rope, it conducts four different tests on wire it receives from suppliers.

The retail seller of the sling involved here is Central Bearings Company, Inc., a long-time Des Moines firm which sells slings and other items of construction equipment. For years, Central Bearings has been a customer of Broderick & Bascom, and Neumann has been a customer of Central Bearings. (Central Bearings was originally a defendant in the case but is no longer a party.)

Wire rope consists of individual wires put together in strands, which in turn are put together to make the rope itself. The rope is made into a multitude of forms, many of which involve danger to personnel and property if the rope is defective or if the workmen use the wrong rope for the task at hand. One of the forms is the sling. A sling is a length of rope with an eye on each end formed by fastening each end of the rope back onto the rope itself.

From long experience and testing, Broderick & Bascom knew quite closely the ultimate breaking point of its rope, called the ultimate tensile strength of the rope. It rated rope in various forms for safe capacity in use. To avoid the possibility of injury to personnel or damage to the rope itself, Broderick & Bascom rated rope for use at one-fifth of its ultimate tensile strength. Rope is not for use beyond its rated capacity. As one witness put it, no out but a fool would use wire rope beyond its rated working capacity.

One size of rope manufactured has a diameter of five-eighths of an inche. The safe working capacity of that rope in the form of a sling is 3.6 tons in a straight pull. Slings are frequently used, however, in a 'basket' hitch or a 'choker' hitch. In a basket hitch, the sling is thrown over an object, such as a post, and a load is hooked to each eye of the sling or to the two eyes together. If the eyes are close together, the safe working capacity of a 5/8 sling is doubled; it will safely carry or hold 7.2 tons. In a choker hitch, the sling is thrown over the post, one eye is fed into and pulled through the other eye, and the load is hooked to the eye thus pulled through. This application reduces the safe working capacity of the sling by 25% Because of the strain on the rope where it contacts the eye through which it is pulled. Thus the safe working capacity of 5/8 rope in a choker hitch is 2.7 tons.

Broderick & Bascom contends and introduced evidence tending to prove that its literature showed these rated capacities, and that it distributed the literature to Central Bearings and the literature reached the hands of the ironworkers; and also that it made metal tags showing rated capacities, and that a tag was fastened to each sling by a ring. But these contentions constitute the battleground in the case on the liability question.

In 1964, Broderick & Bascom manufactured the 5/8 sling involved in this case. The sling was of proper design and was not defective. Broderick & Bascom sold the sling to Central Bearings, which in turn sold it to Neumann. The latter company placed the sling in its equipment warehouse. No records were kept on the sling, but evidently it was placed in use.

In 1965, Firestone Tire & Rubber Company extended the size of its Des Moines tire plant. This necessitated moving several tire presses, each weighing 54 1/2 tons. Neumann contracted to move the presses and sent four journeymen ironworkers to do the work. One of them, foreman Joffer J. Yamen, a journeyman ironworker since 1948 and a foreman for several years, was

Page 206

thoroughly familiar with the use of slings, the proper size sling for a job, and the danger of using a worn or damaged sling. Another of the ironworkers was plaintiff Paul Allen West, who also was an experienced journeyman. Mr. West had been foreman on some jobs.

Firestone had an engineer on its staff and Neumann had several engineers. But in moving the tire presses, the foreman of the ironworkers was left to his own devices in arranging the rigging and in selecting the size rope. Neither the engineer of the owner, Firestone, nor the engineers of the employer, Neumann, calculated the load involved in pulling and turning the presses or furnished information of that character to the ironworkers. Nor did the ironworkers seek that information. The ironworkers moved the presses over the cement floor by pulling them along on three-inch solidmetal pipes which rolled under the presses. The power for pulling the presses came from a motor of a design which delivered its maximum strength at the outset of a pull.

At one point in moving each tire press to its destination, the ironworkers were required to turn it on its axis. The turning process imposed a considerably greater load on the rigging than a straight pull of a press, for in the turn, the pipes would not simply roll; they also slid to some extent, even though canted. In addition, if the pipes happened to bind or if, as frequently occurs, the rope 'jumped' in the eye of a sling, an extra load was thrown on the rigging--called a shock load. A shock load can double the regular load.

The turning process, like the other moving processes, was under the direction of the foreman. In accordance with his directions the ironworkers placed the metal pipes at an angle under the press to make the turn possible. A 3/4 wire rope was attached to a corner of the press, run to a sheave (pulley) which was anchored to a post by a 5/8 sling in a choker hitch, and then run to the motor at about an 18 angle to the first line. (In some instances sheaves were anchored to the posts by a multiple wrap of wire rope. This imposed considerably less strain on such rope than the strain imposed on a single sling. The present incident, however, involved the use of a single 5/8 sling.) The accompanying sketch illustrates the layout.

The 3/4 rope had considerably more strength, of course, than the 5/8 rope in the sling. In addition, the 3/4 rope, because it consisted of two legs, carried only about half of the amount of load that the single sling carried, and the sling was in a choker hitch reducing its safe working capacity to 2.7 tons. Subsequent engineering computations disclosed that if such a press were turned under ideal conditions--on a smooth granite floor with the three-inch pipes in a perfect radial arrangement--the minimum load on the sling in the turn would be 13 tons. If the pipes were placed as the ironworkers claimed to have put them, and conditions were otherwise ideal, the minimum load would be 15 to 20 tons. Friction from the cement floor would increase the load further, and if a shock load occurred, the load would be upward to double.

The foreman testified he did not know that the safe rated working capacity of the sling was 2.7 tons, that no tag was on the sling indicating its capacity, and that he had not seen literature showing the capacity. He further testified that if he had known that the rated capacity of the sling was 2.7 tons, he would not have used the sling in this application.

Four of the presses were moved over the cement floor, turned, and placed in their destinations. The fifth press was moved over the floor, and the rigging was put in place for the turn. The foreman went around the rigging and checked each sheave. Mr. West was standing between the legs of the 3/4 pulling rope near the 5/8 sling--in the bight, as it is called. The evidence is meager as to why he was in that dangerous location; the witnesses

Page 208

agree it is almost 'a religion' with ironworkers not to stand in the bight.

Page 207


Page 208

The Firestone plant itself was in operation at the time, and the noise in the area was at a high level. After the foreman had checked the rigging, he shouted to get down, he was going to 'get up with the load.' Mr. West did not hear the foreman. The foreman did not have Mr. West...

To continue reading

Request your trial
49 cases
  • Gracyalny v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 82-2499
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • December 15, 1983
    ...immediate purchaser of a product. E.g., Brizendine v. Visador Co., 437 F.2d 822, 828 (9th Cir.1970); West v. Broderick & Bascom Rope Co., 197 N.W.2d 202 (Iowa 1972); Ford Motor Co. v. Robert J. Poeschl, Inc., 21 Cal.App.3d 694, 98 Cal.Rptr. 702, 705 (1972). But cf., Carmichael v. Reitz, 17 ......
  • Continental Ins. v. Page Engineering Co., I-X
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 5, 1989
    ...Idaho 277, 731 P.2d 1267 (1986), cert. denied 486 U.S. 1031, 108 S.Ct. 2013, 100 L.Ed.2d 601 (1988); West v. Broderick & Bascom Rope Co., 197 N.W.2d 202 (Iowa 1972); Connelly v. General Motors Corp., 184 Ill.App.3d 378, 132 Ill.Dec. 630, 540 N.E.2d 370 (1989); Byrne v. SCM Corp., 182 Ill.Ap......
  • Rowson v. Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., C 91-3054.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • October 24, 1994
    ...which make it likely to be dangerous. Henkel v. R & S Bottling Co., 323 N.W.2d 185, 188 (Iowa 1982); West v. Broderick & Bascom Rope Co., 197 N.W.2d 202, 209 (Iowa 1972) (stating further that § 394 makes § 388 applicable to manufacturers). See also Spaur v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 51......
  • Burley v. Kytec Innovative Sports Equip., 24132.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • August 1, 2007
    ...result"); Valentine v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 68 Cal.App.4th 1467, 81 Cal.Rptr.2d 252, 265 (1999); West v. Broderick & Bascom Rope Co., 197 N.W.2d 202, 212 (Iowa 1972) ("[f]or testing to be material, substantial evidence must be introduced of a defect in the article"); Vassallo v. Baxter ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT