Law School Case Brief
Siemen v. Alden - 34 Ill. App. 3d 961, 341 N.E.2d 713 (1975)
The Illinois Supreme Court adopted the provisions of section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965), which states: Special Liability of Seller of Product for Physical Harm to User or Consumer (1) One who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm thereby caused to the ultimate user or consumer, or to his property, if(a) the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and(b) it is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold. (2) The rule stated in Subsection (1) applies although (a) the seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of his product, and(b) the user or consumer has not bought the product from or entered into any contractual relation with the seller. The plain language of the rule limits the application to a seller engaged in the business of selling the product which proved defective. This limitation is buttressed by the comment accompanying the rule in that the occasional seller is explicitly excluded.
Plaintiff Roland Siemen had owned and operated a sawmill since 1961. In 1968, he decided to purchase a multi-rip saw to increase his production of decking pallets. Upon the suggestion of a customer, Siemen contacted Lloyd G. Alden, manufacturer of the saw in question. Alden informed Siemen that a new saw could not be delivered in less than six months and suggested that Siemen contact defendant Korleski, who owned two of the Alden saws. Siemen contacted Korleski, who advised him that he indeed had two saws: the one he was currently using, and an older one purchased in 1962 that had not been used since 1965. Thereafter the parties met on two occasions at Korleski’s sawmill to discuss Siemen's possible purchase of the older saw. At the first meeting, defendant demonstrated the new saw, which operated in the same manner as the one Siemen was considering purchasing. Siemen's son accompanied him to the second meeting, at which time Siemen was first shown the saw in question. It was sitting, partially dismantled, in a corner and was covered with boards and sawdust. Korleski informed Siemen that it was in operating condition and that Siemen would have to supply and install saw blades, motor, shiv, belts, pulleys, and a sawdust removal apparatus in order to use it. Thereafter, the parties agreed on a purchase price of $2900.
Siemen's injury, which precipitated the instant suit, occurred in 1970 when a cant of wood exploded while being fed through the saw in question.
Was Korleski liable for the injuries sustained by Siemen?
The court found that Siemen’s argument failed to overcome the clear requirement of the rule that the seller be engaged in the business of selling the particular product. The sale was an isolated transaction and did not come within the terms of Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 26, § 2-314. The court ruled that the buyer's facts were insufficient to raise a question of material fact as to his reliance upon the seller's skill and knowledge; no facts indicated that the buyer relied on the seller's expertise in making his decision to purchase the saw. Rather, the uncontroverted facts establish that Siemen had decided to purchase that particular type of saw prior to his initial contact with the seller. The court held therefore that the trial court properly granted the seller's motion for summary judgment.
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