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Schmidt v. Archer Iron Works

OPINION FILED JANUARY 28, 1970.

PAUL SCHMIDT ET AL., APPELLEES,

v.

ARCHER IRON WORKS, INC., APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. WILLIAM V. DALY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied March 23, 1970.

Paul Schmidt brought this product liability action in the circuit court of Cook County to recover from Archer Iron Works, Inc., for personal injuries he received when part of a tubular concrete pouring tower allegedly manufactured by Archer fell upon him at a bridge construction site at which he was employed. In separate counts, Schmidt's wife sought damages for loss of consortium, and an insurance carrier sought subrogation for workmen's compensation payments made on behalf of Schmidt's employer. Following the reservation of Archer's motion for a directed verdict made at the close of all the evidence, the jury returned verdicts for Paul Schmidt in the amount of $250,000, for his wife in the amount of $15,000, and for the workmen's compensation insurer in the amount of $35,871.58. The trial court vacated the jury verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs, granted Archer's post-trial motion for judgment n.o.v., and conditionally denied Archer's alternative motion for a new trial. On the plaintiffs' appeal the Appellate Court, First District, reversed the judgment and remanded the cause with instructions to reinstate the judgments on the original jury verdicts. (98 Ill. App.2d 82.) We allowed Archer's petition for leave to appeal.

The facts are fully set forth in the opinion of the appellate court, and we restate them only to the extent necessary for the determination of the issues on this appeal.

It is undisputed that the instrumentality which caused Schmidt's injury was a metal "eye" pin used to secure a concrete pouring chute to a 104-foot-high tower in such a way that the pouring chute could be rotated to channel the flow of concrete in various directions. On August 5, 1954, as a result of a separation in a factory weld which had bonded two parts of the eye pin together, the uppermost chute in the pouring system fell and struck Schmidt, who was working near the base of the pouring tower, injuring him severely.

It is incumbent upon a plaintiff in a product liability case to prove that his injuries resulted from an "unreasonably dangerous" condition of the product and that "the condition existed at the time it left the manufacturer's control." (Suvada v. White Motor Co., 32 Ill.2d 612.) This case is unusual in that it is undisputed that the eye pin was defectively manufactured and that this defect was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. The narrow issue before us is whether there was sufficient evidence that the defendant furnished the defective pin to justify the jury's verdict.

The record shows that in August of 1953 Pacific Bridge Company, a bridge contractor, ordered through the Victor L. Phillips Co., a dealer in construction equipment, a concrete pouring tower and certain accessories. In response to this order, the Phillips Company placed a purchase order with Archer for the following items:

"1-104' Archer Heavy Duty Single Well 2-WB Tubular Tower Complete

1-506 42 Cu. Ft. Concrete Bucket

1-508 50 Cu. Ft. Tower Hopper with Dumping Chute

1-513 Boom Spout Bridle Seat

2-30HS 30 ft. Swivel Head Chutes

1-501 10 ft. Std. Taper Chute"

A boom spout bridle seat is a bracket-like device used for bolting a boom spout bridle securely to a sliding frame affixed to the legs of the tower. A boom spout bridle is a swivel mount upon which the pouring chute rests in a V-shaped bridge. An integral component of the boom spout bridle is an eye pin functionally equivalent to the one which precipitated the accident in the case at bar. The eye pin is a stock item for which there is no separate catalogue listing. It is a component part of a boom spout bridle, and in the Archer price list, from which the Phillips ...


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