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Turner v. General Motors Corp.

Supreme Court of Texas

June 13, 1979

No. B-7747



The opinion of the Court delivered March 21, 1979, and the judgment based thereon, are withdrawn. The following is now the opinion of the Court.

Robert A. Turner overturned his 1969 Chevrolet Impala sedan, manufactured and sold by General Motors Corporation, while  [*846]  seeking to avoid a collision with a truck. The car rolled over once and the roof caved in at the driver's corner when it contacted the ground. Although his seat belt was buckled, Turner was struck on his head and suffered a crushed vertebra resulting in paralysis. It is not contended that the design of the automobile or the roof had any part in causing the accident.

Turner sued General Motors and the dealer, Kliesing Motor Company, in a products liability [**2]  action on a strict tort liability theory, alleging the uncrashworthiness of the automobile.  General Motors did not interplead the driver or owner of the truck. In a venue appeal it was ruled that under this doctrine a manufacturer and retailer may be held strictly liable in tort for a defectively designed automobile which enhances the injuries of the plaintiff but does not cause the accident. Turner v. General Motors Corp., 514 S.W.2d 497 (Tex.Civ.App.1974, writ ref'd n. r. e.).

Upon the subsequent trial of the merits of Turner's action now before us the jury answered the following issue in the affirmative:


Do you find from a preponderance of the evidence that at the time the automobile in question was manufactured by General Motors the roof structure was defectively designed?

By the term "defectively designed" as used in this issue is meant a design that is unreasonably dangerous.

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584 S.W.2d 844 *; 1979 Tex. LEXIS 333 **; 22 Tex. Sup. J. 409

Robert A. TURNER, Petitioner, v. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION et al., Respondents

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Rehearing Denied July 18, 1979.


manufacturer, unreasonable danger, strict liability, factors, design defect, ordinary consumer, trial court, cases, conscious, prudent, roof, special issue, expectations, Products, consumer, ordinary knowledge, balancing, collision, product liability, authoritative, strict liability in tort, strict tort liability, industry practice, crashworthiness, disjunctive, bifurcated, enumerated, writings, risks

Torts, Products Liability, Types of Defects, Design Defects, Theories of Liability, Strict Liability, Civil Procedure, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, General Overview, Transportation Law, Private Vehicles, Safety Standards, Crashworthiness, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Relevance, Remedies, Damages, Taxation, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Motions to Reargue, Damages