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Law School Case Brief

Friedman v. Gen. Motors Corp. - 43 Ohio St. 2d 209, 331 N.E.2d 702 (1975)


To sustain an allegation of product defect against a defendant, plaintiffs must prove that the product was manufactured and sold by defendant, was defective; that the defect existed at the time the product left the factory; and that the defect was the direct and proximate cause of the accident and injuries.


In May, 1967, plaintiffs Morton Friedman, his wife and their two minor children were traveling in their automobile, which was manufactured by defendant General Motors Corporation ("GM"). After stopping for gasoline at a fuel station, Mr. Friedman started the vehicle to approach a pump, when the vehicle lunged forward suddenly; it hit another vehicle at the station as well as a pole. The vehicle was damages; all four members of the Friedman family suffered injuries. The Friedmans filed a products liability action in Ohio state court against GM and defendant A. D. Pelunis Oldsmobile, Inc. ("Pelunis"), which had sold the vehicle to the Friedmans. During the Friedmans' case-in-chief, their causes of action against Pelunis were voluntarily dismissed. At the close of the Friedmans' case, GM's motion for a directed verdict was granted. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed, holding that the jury had the right to infer, if it found the facts to be as testified to by the Friedmans, that there was defect in their vehicle's neutral safety switch, which caused their injuries. GM appealed.


Was the evidence introduced by the Friedmans sufficient to overcome GM's motion for a directed verdict?




The state supreme court affirmed the appellate court's decision. The court examined the record and ruled that the evidence presented by the Friedmans established a prima facie case of defect for which GM would be liable. The jury might reasonably have concluded that GM was guilty of manufacturing a defective automobile, which directly and proximately caused the accident, the court concluded.

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