The question to be determined is whether the defendant owed a duty of care and vigilance to any one but the immediate purchaser.
MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co.
Defendant is an automobile manufacturer. It sold a car to a retail deal who resold it to plaintiff. While plaintiff was in the car, it suddenly collapsed. He was thrown out and injured. One of the wheels was made of defective wood, causing it to crumble, but it was not made by defendant. Defendant bought the wheel from another manufacturer, but evidence shows that the defects could have been discovered by reasonable inspection, which was omitted. There is no claim defendant knew of the defect. Plaintiff sues on negligence.
Supreme Court and Appellate Division found for plaintiff.
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Having a contractual duty to one person does not preclude that person from having a duty to others as well. While a car is not ordinarily an inherently dangerous vehicle, it can be when negligently constructed. Buying the wheels from a reputable manufacturer does not absolve defendant from liability, and it was responsible for the finished product. The more probable the danger, the greater the need of inspection.
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If the nature of a thing is such that it is reasonably certain to place life and limb in peril when negligently made, it is then a thing of danger. Its nature gives warning of the consequences to be expected. If to the element of danger there is added knowledge that the thing will be used by persons other than the purchaser, and used without new tests, then, irrespective of contract, the manufacturer of this thing of danger is under a duty to make it carefully.
Affirmed with costs.