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Zidek v. General Motors Corp.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 22, 1978.

CHARLES SCOTT ZIDEK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

GENERAL MOTORS CORP. ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. ROBERT K. McQUEEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE NASH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Charles S. Zidek, appeals from the dismissal of his complaint in which he sought damages from defendants, General Motors Corporation and Lou Bravos Oldsmobile, Inc., based upon the doctrine of strict liability in tort.

The complaint was brought in two counts, the first being against General Motors as manufacturer of a 1970 Oldsmobile and the second against Bravos as retail seller of the car to Thomas Dugan. The complaint alleged that on December 30, 1975, Theresa Dugan, daughter of the owner of the car, was operating it in low gear on a highway in a snowstorm when it skidded into the oncoming lane of traffic and collided with an approaching vehicle. The complaint further alleged plaintiff and other passengers in the Dugan vehicle were injured and that two other passengers were killed.

While the complaint did not allege that the automobile contained any specific manufacturing or design defects or that it had malfunctioned in any manner, it was alleged to be unreasonably dangerous in one or more of the following respects:

"(a) The braking system of the motor vehicle in use on a slippery surface in low gear rendered the motor vehicle subject to an uncontrollable skid.

(b) The manual of instructions for said motor vehicle failed to warn the operator of the motor vehicle that driving in low gear on a slippery surface could cause the motor vehicle to skid, uncontrollably.

(c) The manual of instructions failed to advise the operator of said motor vehicle the proper gear to use in operating said motor vehicle on a slippery surface.

(d) The motor vehicle had no warning notice advising the operator that driving in low gear could cause said motor vehicle to go into an uncontrollable skid on a slippery surface.

(e) The manual of instructions indicated that the best gear to operate said motor vehicle on a slippery surface was low gear, when the Defendant knew, or should have known, the driving of said motor vehicle in low gear on a slippery surface could cause said motor vehicle to enter an uncontrollable skid."

When General Motors stated in its motion to dismiss the complaint that "all automobiles driven and braked on slippery surfaces are subject to uncontrollable skidding," plaintiff amended count I of the complaint to allege that General Motors:

"(f) Failed to warn the operator of said automobile that it was subject to an uncontrollable skid while being operated on a slippery surface.

(g) Failed to warn the operator of said automobile not to apply the brake of said automobile while being operated on a slippery surface.

(h) Failed to warn the operator of said automobile not to operate said automobile on a slippery surface.

(i) Failed to include in the Owner's Manual a notice that said automobile was subject to an uncontrollable skid when ...


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