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In Arizona, the rule in negligence cases is that evidence of industry custom and practice is generally admissible as evidence relevant to whether a defendant's conduct was reasonable under the circumstances. In determining what is reasonable care for manufacturers, a plaintiff need only prove a defendant's conduct presented a foreseeable, unreasonable risk of harm. As in all other negligence cases, a jury is permitted to decide what is reasonable from the common experience of mankind. In determining what is "reasonable care," expert evidence may be required in those cases in which factual issues are outside the common understanding of jurors. However, unlike most malpractice cases, there need not be explicit expert testimony establishing the standard of care and the manner in which defendant deviated from that standard.
A mother fell asleep at the wheel of her Volkswagen "Bug," and the automobile eventually flipped. The injured party, Julie Ann Kennon, 11 months old at the time, was severely burned by battery acid. The jury found for the guardian of the injured party on a negligent design of battery claim, and awarded damages. The court of appeals held that the guardian failed to establish a prima facie case of either negligence or proximate cause and that the trial judge had erred in denying the motion of the manufacturer for judgment.
Did the guardian fail to establish a prima facie case of either negligence or proximate cause?
After a grant of certiorari, the court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals. The guardian provided a prima facie case of negligent design against the manufacturer because the injured party presented expert evidence that the battery design location presented a foreseeable, unreasonable risk of harm, that alternative designs were available, and that such designs were feasible from a technological and practical standpoint. The jury was free to reach or reject the conclusion. Further, the injury was within the scope of the risk created by the manufacturer's original design.