Winnett v. Winnett, 45757

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation310 N.E.2d 1,57 Ill.2d 7
Docket NumberNo. 45757,45757
PartiesTeresa Kay WINNETT, a minor, by Susie Stine, her mother and next friend, Appellee, v. Berlin WINNETT et al. Appeal of HELIX CORPORATION.
Decision Date29 March 1974

Page 1

310 N.E.2d 1
57 Ill.2d 7
Teresa Kay WINNETT, a minor, by Susie Stine, her mother and
next friend, Appellee,
Berlin WINNETT et al.
No. 45757.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
March 29, 1974.

Page 2

Phillips, Phebus, Tummelson & Bryan, Urbana (Hurshal C. Tummelson and Joseph W. Phebus, Urbana, of counsel), for appellants.

[57 Ill.2d 8] Douglas C. Baldwin and Dale A. Cini, of Ryan & Cini, Ltd., Mattoon, for appellee.

UNDERWOOD, Chief Justice:

Four-year-old Teresa Kay Winnett was injured when she placed her hand on a moving conveyor belt or screen on a forage wagon then being operated on her grandfather's farm. An amended two-count complaint on her behalf sought recovery in count I from her grandfather predicated upon his negligence. Count II is a strict-tort-liability action against defendant Helix Corporation, manufacturer of the forage wagon. The defendant corporation filed a motion to dismiss count II for failure to state a cause of action, and the circuit court of Coles County allowed that motion. The count I cause of action was apparently settled, and it was dismissed without prejudice. The Appellate Court for the Fourth District held count II stated a cause of action and reversed its dismissal by the trial court. (9 Ill.App.3d 644, 292 N.E.2d 524.) We allowed leave to appeal.

Count II of the amended complaint alleged in substance that plaintiff was visiting her grandfather by invitation at his farm home, that he was operating a forage wagon in the barnyard, and that defendant Helix Corporation had manufactured the wagon; that the forage wagon was being used for its intended purpose and the plaintiff was injured while it was being so used. Among other allegations, including the absence of rear-view mirrors and warning signs, it is charged that the conveyor belts on the wagon were exposed with no shield or guard affixed to prevent persons from coming into contact with the belts and the steel end of the wagon, and no bolts, latches or holes were present to allow for the attachment of a shield or guard. These and other conditions were alleged to render the wagon unreasonably dangerous, and it is alleged that they existed at the time the forage wagon left [57 Ill.2d 9] defendant's

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control and that plaintiff's injuries resulted from one or more of these conditions. The complaint states the circumstances surrounding the plaintiff's injury as follows:

'8. On July 9, 1963, the Plaintiff was then and there in the barnyard of BERLIN WINNETT where the said forage wagon was being operated, and she viewed the two exposed, slow-moving conveyor belts or screens with numerous holes in same, which holes were of sufficient size to admit the fingers of small children, and on which were located bits and pieces of alfalfa haylage or other vegetation, which bits and pieces moved with the belts or screens under the steel end of the forage wagon, which steel end would shear off any objects in or on the said belts or screens, and to which the Plaintiff was attracted.

9. That at the time of the occurrence in question, the Plaintiff was attracted to the forage wagon and approached same and placed her fingers on or in the said conveyor belts or screens.

10. As a direct and proximate result of one or more or a conbination of all of the unreasonably dangerous conditions stated in Paragraph 6 herein, the Plaintiff's fingers were pulled by the slowmoving conveyor belts or screens into and beneath the steel end of the forage wagon.'

The arguments of the parties here have focused largely upon whether 'use' of this forage wagon by a four-year-old child was 'foreseeable' by the manufacturer. Plaintiff urges that foreseeability has no place in strict-tort-liability doctrine but that, in any event, the likelihood of small children being in the vicinity of operating farm equipment is not so unforeseeable as to warrant taking the case from the jury; defendant contends that the product was being 'used' by a child for whose use it was not intended and whose use of it was not foreseeable. Consequently, argues defendant, no liability for the injury may be imposed upon the manufacturer.

Our earlier decisions establish the duty of the manufacturer to make a product reasonably fit for its intended [57 Ill.2d 10] use. (Suvada v. White Motor Co., 32 Ill.2d 612, 210 N.E.2d 182; Dunham v. Vaughan & Bushnell Mfg. Co., 42 Ill.2d 339, 247 N.E.2d 401.) That the scope of a forage wagon's 'intended use' does not embrace its use by a four-year-old child seems obvious, as does the conclusion that such child is neither a 'user' nor a 'consumer' of this product as those terms are spoken of in products-liability law. (See Restatement (Second) of Torts, sec. 402A(1); Suvada.) Whether this forage wagon was unreasonably dangerous when operated for its intended purpose by one for whose use it was intended is simply not a relevant consideration unless plaintiff is a person entitled to the protections afforded by the concepts of strict-tort-liability actions against manufacturers.

The large majority of courts which have considered the question of recovery in a strict-tort-liability action by persons other than those for whose use the product was intended have found the terms 'bystander' or 'innocent bystander' a convenient means of categorizing an additional group of persons for whose injuries courts have allowed recovery. (Passwaters v. General Motors Corp. (8th Cir. 1972), 454 F.2d 1270; Wasik v. Borg (2d Cir. 1970), 423...

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