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Law School Case Brief

Tillman v. Vance Equip. Co. - 286 Or. 747, 596 P.2d 1299 (1979)

Rule:

Strict liability for defective products may not be imposed on dealers in used goods, at least in the absence of some representation of quality beyond the sale itself or of a special position vis-a-vis the original manufacturer or others in the chain of original distribution.

Facts:

Durametal, a company, asked a used equipment dealer, to locate a crane for purchase by Durametal. The defendant found a 24-year-old crane that looked suitable, Durametal inspected and approved it. The used equipment dealer purchased the crane and immediately resold it to Durametal. The used equipment dealer also prepared documents making the sale "as is." Durametal assigned its employee to operate the crane, including greasing it. The employee believed the greasing of the gears could not be done properly without removing the gear cover and applying the grease while the gears were moving. While he was so greasing the gears, the employee's hand was drawn into them and he was injured. The employee brought action against the used equipment dealer to recover for his personal injuries based upon the theory of strict liability in tort. The Circuit Court of Multnomah County (Oregon) ruled in favor of the used equipment dealer on grounds that the crane was sold "as is." Plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Can the used equipment dealer be liable for the injury under the theory of strict liability?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Oregon affirmed the trial court and ruled that the used equipment dealer could not be held strictly liable in tort for the defect in the used crane when that defect was created by the manufacturer. The court determined that the relevant policy considerations did not justify imposing strict liability for defective products on dealers in used goods, at least in the absence of some representation of quality beyond the sale itself or of a special position vis-a-vis the original manufacturer or others in the chain of original distribution.

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