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Supreme Court of Florida
July 21, 1976
[*82] This case is presented on certificate as authorized by Fla.Stat. § 25.031, F.S.A., and in Rule 4.61, Florida Appellate Rules, 32 F.S.A., from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 504 F.2d 967, in an appeal from a final judgment of the trial court which applied the doctrine of strict liability in a products liability suit.
The court states that:
"A caterpillar grader operated by an employee of Houdaille Industries struck and ran over, with its left rear tandem wheel, Gwendolyn West on a street under construction in Miami, Florida, on September 1, 1970. Gwendolyn West died of massive [**2] internal injuries after six days in the hospital. As a result, the deceased's husband, Leon West, individually and as administrator of the estate of his deceased wife, claimed a right to damages against Houdaille Industries and Caterpillar Tractor Company, Inc., the manufacturer of the machine. He ultimately settled with Houdaille Industries for $35,000 damages and brought a products liability suit against the manufacturer of the grader, Caterpillar Tractor Company, Inc., in the United States District Court, in and for the Southern District of Florida bottomed on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction.
"West's Complaint contained two counts: (1) negligent design of the grader by failure to provide an audible warning system for use while backing the grader, by failure to provide adequate rear view mirrors, and by manufacturing the grader with a blind spot created by obstructions when looking to the rear while driving in reverse, and (2) a breach of implied warranty or strict liability based upon the same design defects.
"At trial, the evidence indicated that preceding the accident Gwendolyn West had walked to the corner, stood on the west curb of the street which was under construction, [**3] speaking to a friend, for a period while the grader operated in a forward manner, southward and proceeded to pass her. The machine reached the end of its southward operation and commenced to back up. In the meantime, Mrs. West began walking across the [*83] street intersecting the path of the grader while it was travelling in reverse. She had been waiting for a bus, and as it approached she commenced to walk across the street, looking to her left; and then she looked into her purse; and continued to look into her purse until the time of the accident. She did not look to her right at any time toward the approaching trader. Both West and Caterpillar presented extensive conflicting expert testimony about the alleged defects in the design of the caterpillar.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
336 So. 2d 80 *; 1976 Fla. LEXIS 4448 **; 24 U.C.C. Rep. Serv. (Callaghan) 1154
Leon WEST, Individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Gwendolyn West, Deceased, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CATERPILLAR TRACTOR COMPANY, INC., Defendant-Appellant
manufacturer, user, consumer, contributory negligence, implied warranty, strict liability, bystander, privity, product liability, doctrine of strict liability, warranty, comparative negligence, strict tort liability, injured person, injuries, damages, grader, breach of implied warranty, due care, contributory, Caterpillar, products, cases, discover, defects, unreasonable danger, contractual, chattel, seller, guard
Torts, Products Liability, Theories of Liability, Strict Liability, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, General Overview, Elements, Causation, Commercial Law (UCC), Contract Provisions, Warranties, Implied Warranty of Merchantability, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions, Implied Warranties, Breach of Warranty, Defenses, Contributory Negligence, Comparative Fault, Negligence, Antitrust & Trade Law, Consumer Protection, Vehicle Warranties, Business & Corporate Compliance, Sales of Goods, Remedies, Criminal Law & Procedure, Proximate Cause