Lee v. Crookston Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

290 Minn. 321, 188 N.W.2d 426 (1971)

 

RULE:

(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. 

FACTS:

A waitress was injured while working when a soda bottle exploded in her hand and a glass fragment of the bottle punctured a nerve in her wrist. The waitress and her husband brought suit against the bottling company of the soda, to recover damages upon pleaded theories of breach of implied warranty, negligence, and strict liability. The court submitted the case to a jury on the theories of breach of implied warranty and contributory negligence under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The jury returned a verdict for the bottling company. The waitress appealed the case.

ISSUE:

Could a waitress recover for nerve damage absent evidence of contributory negligence by opening a soda bottle in the usual manner, was an implied warranty breached by the bottler, and did res ipsa loquitur apply?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court found that the trial court committed reversible error when it submitted the issue of contributory negligence to the jury because the record was devoid of any evidence upon which a finding of contributory negligence could be sustained. Because it could be inferred from the circumstantial evidence that it was more probable than not that the product was defective when it left defendant's hands and because no misuse on plaintiff's part was shown, a new trial was necessary because the issue of liability should also have been submitted to the jury on the requested strict liability theory.

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