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Holecek v. E-z Just

OPINION FILED MAY 11, 1984.

JUDY HOLECEK, ADM'X OF THE ESTATE OF JERRY ALIOS HOLECEK, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

E-Z JUST, DEFENDANT (STERLING MODELS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Myron T. Gomberg, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff Judy Holecek, administratrix of the estate of Jerry Alios Holecek, deceased, appeals from the summary judgments entered in her suit based on strict liability in tort in favor of defendants Sterling Models, Inc. (Sterling), Perfect Parts Co. (Perfect), Sullivan Products, Inc. (Sullivan), and LaGrange Hobby Center, Inc. (Hobby Center).

Deceased was plaintiff's husband. He had purchased a model airplane kit from the Hobby Center. The kit manufactured by Sterling contained only those parts necessary to construct a balsa wood airplane. It did not contain any accessories or parts making the wooden model plane capable of being flown. In order to fly it, decedent purchased also from the Hobby Center, (a) a control wire manufactured by Sullivan, (b) a swivel connector manufactured by Perfect Parts, and (c) a control handle manufactured by E-Z Just and Elwood Phillips d/b/a Phil/Lays and distributed by SIG Manufacturing. E-Z Just and Elwood Phillips were never served. A summary judgment in favor of SIG was not appealed.

Plaintiff's husband assembled the plane and on August 1, 1979, flew it for approximately one hour. On August 2, 1979, he was flying it adjacent to his home on land containing overhead electrical wires carrying 345,000 volts. He had leased this land from Commonwealth Edison Company (not a party to this litigation). While flying the model, it came into contact with the overhead wires — or at least within arcing distance. There was a large boom and a flash. He was severely burned and died August 23, 1979.

Shortly after the occurrence, he told a neighbor that he did not know how the accident happened, "but he thought that the power lines were higher than they apparently were."

Plaintiff's amended complaint against Hobby Center, Sterling, Perfect and Sullivan was grounded in essence on the contention that defendants' products were defective and unreasonably dangerous in that they neither insulated the users from the foreseeable hazards of electricity nor gave sufficient warning of this danger. It alleged that the balsa wood airplane kit sold by Hobby Center and the parts manufactured by each of the other defendants respectively were "in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to users or consumers, in that they exposed users or consumers to the foreseeable and anticipated danger of electrocution from contact with high voltage electrical lines."

With reference to Sterling, the manufacturer of the kit, and Hobby Center from whom it was purchased, the amended complaint alleged that the kit and the control handle were unreasonably dangerous in one or more of the following ways:

(a) The model airplane kit was not supplied with a nonconducting control line;

(b) The model airplane kit was not supplied with a handle capable of insulating the user from high voltage which the model airplane may encounter in flight;

(c) The model airplane kit was not supplied with sufficient warnings about the danger of using electrically conducting control lines and noninsulating control line handles.

(d) The model airplane control line handle was defectively designed and manufactured in that it allowed the hand of the user to contact the metal control line.

The trial court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment,

"based on the lack of any duty to warn of the dangers of electricity as so ruled in Genaust v. Illinois Power Co., and further upon the lack of any defective and unreasonably dangerous conditions of any of aforesaid defendants' products as alleged by the plaintiff, and not ...


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