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May v. Portland Jeep Inc.

April 26, 1973

MAY, RESPONDENT,
v.
PORTLAND JEEP, INC., APPELLANT



Appeal from Circuit Court, Multnomah County. Robert E. Jones, Judge.

Edward H. Warren, Portland, argued the cause for appellant. With him on the brief were Hershiser, Mitchell & Warren, Portland.

Mark McCulloch, Portland, argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.

In Banc. Holman, J.

Holman

This is a products liability action brought under

Restatement (Second) of Torts ยง 402A for damages suffered as a result of injuries inflicted in a one-vehicle accident. Plaintiff claims his injuries were caused by a defective vehicle which was sold to him by defendant. Defendant appealed from a judgment for plaintiff which was entered pursuant to a jury verdict.

Because plaintiff received the verdict, the facts will be recounted in a manner as favorable to him as the evidence will permit. Plaintiff purchased from defendant a new Jeep upon which was installed a roll bar. Thereafter, while driving the vehicle, plaintiff upset it upon a sand dike adjacent the Columbia river. He attempted to climb the landward side of the dike with five passengers in the Jeep, but became bogged down because of the loose sand. Two of his passengers disembarked, and plaintiff made a second attempt which was successful. The momentum carried the Jeep across the top of the dike and the vehicle started down the other side at a speed of from eight to ten miles per hour. The descent was much steeper on the river side than plaintiff had anticipated, for, on the way down, the front end of the Jeep buried itself in the sand and the vehicle flipped forward, landing upside down.

The roll bar had been installed by bolting it through the tops of the wheel wells which covered the rear wheels. The wheel wells were welded to the sides of the body by spot welds. The pressure of the impact of the overturning vehicle tore bits of metal from the body at the points where the wheel wells were spot welded to it. As a result, the wheel wells collapsed upon the tires of the vehicle, bringing the roll bar down with them.

The roll bar came down across the back of the neck of plaintiff, who was strapped into his seat with a seat belt, and the impact thrust his head forward, causing his face to be pinned against the steering wheel while his head rested upon the ground. He received injuries to his teeth, mouth, neck, back, chest, and one leg.

Defendant first contends the trial court erred in failing to grant its motion for a directed verdict because there was insufficient proof that the vehicle was in a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous. An engineer called by plaintiff testified that the roll bar should have been capable of withstanding the load caused by the vehicle's rolling over in the manner recounted by plaintiff. The engineer also testified that the support for the roll bar could have been increased by making continuous welds where the wheel wells joined the body or by bolting the angle irons, which supported the bases of the roll bar, to the sides of the vehicle as well as to the wheel wells. Bolt holes, although unused, had been provided in the angle irons for that purpose. This evidence, together with evidence of the purpose of a roll bar, was sufficient for the jury to find that the vehicle was in a defective condition and was unreasonably dangerous. There was adequate evidence that the roll bar did not perform its intended function.

As an additional ground for its nonsuit, defendant contends there was insufficient evidence that plaintiff's injury was caused by the collapse of the roll bar. Defendant argues that there was no evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that plaintiff's injuries probably would ...


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