Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Vandermark v. Ford Motor Co. case brief

Vandermark v. Ford Motor Co. case brief summary
391 P.2d 168 (1964)

Plaintiffs, a buyer and his sister, brought an action alleging breach of warranty and negligence against defendants, an automobile manufacturer and an automobile dealer, for personal injuries they sustained in an accident allegedly caused by defects in a new car. Plaintiffs appealed from judgments of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California).

Six weeks after purchasing his new car from the dealer, the buyer lost control of the car and collided with a light post. Plaintiffs claimed that there was a sudden failure of the car's braking system. The manufacturer had delegated the final steps of its process to the dealer and relied on the dealer to make the final inspections and adjustments necessary for the car to be ready for use.

PROCEDURAL HISTORYThe trial court granted the manufacturer's motion for nonsuit, directed a verdict in favor of the dealer on the warranty action, and entered judgment on a jury verdict for the dealer on the negligence action.


  • On appeal, the court concluded that it was error to grant nonsuit on issues of strict liability and negligence against the manufacturer and to direct a verdict for the dealer. 
  • The court held that the manufacturer could be strictly liable in tort and could not delegate its duty to deliver cars free from defects. 
  • The court extended the doctrine of strict liability to the dealer because it was in the business of selling cars, one of which proved to be defective. 
  • Although plaintiffs had proceeded under a warranty theory, they introduced substantial evidence to establish strict liability in tort.

The court reversed the nonsuit granted in favor of the manufacturer. The court also reversed the judgment for the dealer on the warranty causes of action but affirmed the judgment in favor of the dealer on the negligence causes of action.

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