MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co.

217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050 (1916)



If manufacturing negligence is reasonably certain to cause peril, knowledge that others may use the product, the manufacturer is obligated to make the product carefully. Whether a given thing is thusly dangerous may be sometimes a question for the court and sometimes a question for the jury. The proximity or remoteness of the relation is a factor to be considered.


Defendant is a manufacturer of automobiles. It sold an automobile to a retail dealer. The retail dealer resold to the plaintiff. While the plaintiff was in the car, it suddenly collapsed. He was thrown out and injured. One of the wheels was made of defective wood, and its spokes crumbled into fragments. The wheel was not made by the defendant; it was bought from another manufacturer. There is evidence, however, that its defects could have been discovered by reasonable inspection, and that inspection was omitted.


Did defendant owe a duty of care and vigilance to any one but the immediate purchaser?




Defendant was not absolved from a duty of inspection because it bought the wheels from a reputable manufacturer. It was not merely a dealer in automobiles. It was a manufacturer of automobiles. It was responsible for the finished product. It was not at liberty to put the finished product on the market without subjecting the component parts to ordinary and simple tests. The obligation to inspect must vary with the nature of the thing to be inspected. The more probable the danger, the greater the need of caution. Both by defendant's relation to the work and by the nature of its business, it is charged with a stricter duty.

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