Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wright v. Massey-harris

MARCH 10, 1966.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Wabash County; the Hon. ROY O. GULLEY, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded.


The plaintiff, Harold Wright, a farm employee, brought an action against the defendant, Massey-Ferguson, Incorporated, to recover for personal injuries sustained while operating a self-propelled corn picker. The defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint was allowed. The plaintiff elected to abide by his amended complaint and the court entered a final judgment of dismissal. The plaintiff appeals from that judgment:

The complaint alleges:

"(4) That at the time of the occurrence hereinafter complained of, and immediately prior thereto, plaintiff was using and operating a 1953 Massey-Harris self-propelled six cylinder cornpicker in the usual and customary way in a certain corn field, in Wabash County, Illinois, which his employer, Bernard Walters, farmed, and plaintiff was exercising ordinary care and caution for his own safety, and was not guilty of any negligent act or omission directly and proximately resulting in the injurious occurrence herein mentioned.

"(5) That in the year 1953, Massey-Harris, Incorporated, now known as Massey-Ferguson, Incorporated, through its dealer, John Heiser Implement Company of Princeton, Indiana, sold said cornpicker being a 1953 Model Massey-Harris self-propelled six cylinder cornpicker, to Bernard Walters, when they knew that said cornpicker would be used in the State of Illinois by the plaintiff or other employees of Bernard Walters.

"(6) That the defendant, Massey-Harris, Incorporated, and Massey-Ferguson, Incorporated, by its agents and employees prior to such sale, had negligently designed and manufactured said self-propelled cornpicker in such manner that it was dangerously defective and faulty, and unfit for the purpose for which it was intended, and that the aforesaid machinery did not have thereto attached a reasonably safe shield over the area where corn ears would jam into the chain mechanism, nor over the shucking rollers under the area where jammed corn ears must be manually extracted, and that defendant, Massey-Harris, Incorporated and Massey-Ferguson, Incorporated, by its agents and employees and dealers, then and there negligently delivered said defective, faulty, unsafe and unfit 1953 self-propelled cornpicker which was then sold to Bernard Walters for use by his employees.

"(7) That defendant, Massey-Harris, Incorporated, and Massey-Ferguson, Incorporated, by its agents, employees and dealers, then and there knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that said machine, with the absence of said shield or guard over the shucking rollers above which jammed corn ears would be manually extracted, was thereby defective, faulty, unfit and unsafe as aforesaid, and that plaintiff or any other person using said machine might or would be seriously injured thereby, but said defect and danger was not appreciated nor evident upon an inspection of said chain and shucking roller and the danger was not appreciated by the plaintiff in his use of the defective machinery.

"(8) That on November 8, 1962, at approximately 11:00 a.m., and immediately prior thereto, plaintiff was using and operating said 1953 Massey-Harris self-propelled cornpicker in a certain corn field while in the employment of Bernard Walters, and as a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid negligent design, manufacture, sale and delivery of said cornpicker, plaintiff's right hand and glove, while cleaning out a jammed ear of corn was caught in the shucking rollers and was drawn into and through said shucking rollers past his right wrist, thereby greatly injuring plaintiff as herein alleged."

Defendant claims that the foregoing complaint does not state a cause of action because (1) there are no facts alleged sufficient to show that the machine in question was inherently dangerous when put to the use for which it was intended, and (2) the complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate that there was any hidden or latent defect in them, but on the contrary, the complaint shows that the danger would be obvious to anyone placing his hands in the corn husking rollers while the machine was in operation and the complaint therefore shows on its face that there is no liability to the plaintiff for the occurrence alleged.

While this cause was pending in this court, the Supreme Court of Illinois rendered a landmark decision in the case of Suvada v. White Motor Co., et al., 32 Ill.2d 612, 210 N.E.2d 182, in which it not only shattered the privity defense in Illinois in actions against manufacturers, sellers, contractors, those who hold themselves out to be manufacturers, assemblers of parts, suppliers and manufacturers of component parts, but also held these same parties to strict privity-free liability for any injury or damage caused by any unreasonably dangerous products which one or all of them might place into the stream of commerce.

The Court based its holding solely on the same public policy which had heretofore motivated the Illinois Courts to impose strict liability on the sellers and manufacturers of food, saying at page 619:

". . . Without extended discussion, it seems obvious that public interest in human life and health, the invitations and solicitations to purchase the product and the justice of imposing the loss on the one creating the risk and reaping the profit are present and as compelling in cases involving motor vehicles and other products, where the defective condition makes them unreasonably dangerous to the user, as they are in food cases."

The Supreme Court traced the history of products liability law in Illinois and the various extensions of that law leading up to its decision. It discussed Rotche v. Buick Motor Co., 358 Ill. 507, 193 N.E. 529, and MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 N.Y. 382, 111 NE 1050, which had adopted the concept "that any article negligently manufactured which is reasonably certain to place life and limb in peril is a thing of danger," and said also at page 616, 617:

". . . Implicit in Lindroth v. Walgreen Co., 407 Ill. 121, was the view that the general rule, rather than the exception to a so-called `general rule,' is that a manufacturer may be liable for injuries to a person not in privity with him and that such liability is governed by the same principles governing any action for negligence."

It recognized that public policy was the primary factor for imposing strict liability on the seller and manufacturer of food in favor of the injured consumer, and that implicit in the reasoning of the cases imposing strict liability is that "liability is imposed by law and the refusal to permit the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.