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
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: Greyhound Corporation v. Brown, 269 Ala. 520, 113 So.2d 916; Defore v. Bourjois, Inc., 268 Ala. 228, 105 So.2d 846; Miles v. Chrysler Corporation, 238 Ala. 359, 191 So. 245; Sterchi Bros. Stores v. Castleberry, 236 Ala. 349, 182 So. 474; Altorfer Bros. Co. v. Green, 236 Ala. 427, 183 So. 415; Saunders System Birmingham Co. v. Adams, 217 Ala. 621, 117 So. 72, 61 A.L.R. 1333.
Here, as already noted, we are concerned with a question of liability based
For cases from other jurisdictions following this rule, see: Restatement in the Courts, Permanent Edition 1932-1944, pp. 715-716; Restatement of the Law (Torts, Sec. 400), 1948 Supp., p. 709; Restatement in the Courts, 1954 Supp., p. 235; Frumer and Friedman, Products Liability, Vol. 1, Sec. 10.02, pp. 190-191. As to the reason for the rule, see Comment d, Restatement of the Law (Torts, Sec. 400), 1948 Supp., p. 708. See also 46 Am.Jur., Sales, Sec. 817.
We hold, in accordance with the stated rule, that Sears' liability is to be determined on the basis that it was the manufacturer of the wheel.
In Defore v. Bourjois, Inc., 268 Ala. 228, 230-231, 105 So.2d 846, 848, supra, it was held that the "manufacturers' liability doctrine" applies:
Applicable here also is the following from Restatement of the Law of Torts, Sec. 398:
There is ample evidence from which the jury could have found that the design of the wheel rendered it defective so as to make it imminently dangerous to one reasonably expected to work with it in so arranging the alignment of the bolt holes that the two halves could be bolted together without the "projections" being aligned with the "depressions." Certainly, it should reasonably have been anticipated that the wheel would have to be taken apart and reassembled in connection with the normal and customary use of the trailer, that is, in changing or repairing the tire and tube mounted on the wheel. There is evidence supporting findings that when the "projections" are not aligned with the "depressions" there is left an air space between the two halves of the wheel; that the fracture of the wheel resulted from the pressure in tightening the bolts, thereby causing the "projections" to be forced against the flat surfaces of the two halves rather than being inserted in the "depressions"; that the halves of the wheel were fractured in the reassembling process; and that, in such condition, the pressure of the air placed in the tire caused the explosion.
It is insisted by Sears that the evidence shows that appellee knew how to assemble
The judgment is due to be affirmed.
LIVINGSTON, C. J., and SIMPSON and COLEMAN, JJ., concur.