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In order for a plaintiff to recover under the theory of strict liability in tort, he must establish: (1) that the product was in a defective condition at the time it left the possession or control of the seller; 2) that it was unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer; 3) that the defect was the cause of the injuries; and 4) that the product was expected to and did reach the consumer without substantial change in its condition.
The deceased, Dr. Srinivasa Rangaswamy, was killed when his vehicle collided with a dump truck owned by the county. The truck had a lift arm, which penetrated the deceased's head and chest. A telephone truck blocked the intersection where the collision occurred. The appellees, Radha Rangaswamy (widow of Dr. Rangaswamy) and her minor child Arum Rangaswamy brought a wrongful death action. Two defendants, C & P Telephone Company and Montgomery County, were sued under theories of negligence. A third defendant, Valk Manufacturing Company, the appellant here, was sued under theories of negligence and strict liability in tort. Valk was the manufacturer of the snowplow hitch which was attached to the Montgomery County dump truck. Valk, in turn, filed a cross-claim against Montgomery County.
Did the widow and the child make a prima facie showing of liability under the doctrine of strict liability?
The court held that the widow and child made a prima facie showing of liability under the doctrine of strict liability through expert testimony. The deceased was not aware that a defectively designed snowplow hitch was about to aggravate the imminent collision causing his death. The wife and child established that the protruding hitch served no practical purpose when not pushing a snowplow blade, was inherently dangerous, easily removed, and the cause of death. A doctor's testimony was not prejudicial because it involved determination of the economic loss suffered by the wife and child as a result of the death of the deceased and not the economic loss to the deceased's corporation. A genuine jury question and issue was generated on the issue of whether the county was negligent and should be held liable to the manufacturer for contribution.