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An article is dangerously defective when it is in a condition unreasonably dangerous to the user. Unreasonable, in this context, means dangerous to an extent beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary purchaser. The user has the right to expect a reasonably safe design and reasonable quality controls in fabrication according to that design. In the type of case in which there is no evidence, direct or circumstantial, available to prove exactly what sort of manufacturing flaw existed, or exactly how the design was deficient, a plaintiff may nonetheless be able to establish his right to recover, by proving that the product did not perform in keeping with the reasonable expectations of the user. When it is shown that a product failed to meet the reasonable expectations of the user the inference is that there was some sort of defect, a precise definition of which is unnecessary. If the product failed under conditions concerning which an average consumer of that product could have fairly definite expectations, then the jury would have a basis for making an informed judgment upon the existence of a defect.
The truck owner filed a product liability action against the truck manufacturer alleging that the truck he purchased had a dangerously defective wheel, which resulted in an accident. The truck owner’s version of the evidence is that the wheel came apart and caused an accident after encountering a five-or-six-inch rock on a hard-surfaced road at highway speed. An involuntary nonsuit was entered by the trial court based on the conclusion that the truck owner had not produced sufficient evidence to submit the case to the jury, and the truck owner sought review.
Did the truck owner produce sufficient evidence to support his allegation that the wheel was dangerously defective?
The court held that the truck owner did not submit evidence which would have allowed the jury to determine if the wheel had performed consistently with consumer expectations. The court noted that the truck owner’s burden was to prove that the wheel was dangerously defective, and that the truck owner failed to introduce evidence of flawed manufacture or dangerous design. The court noted further that the truck owner had supplied no basis in the record for the jury to make their factual determination as to reasonable consumer expectations from the product. Accordingly, the nonsuit was affirmed.