The number of cases that involve products liability claims is extensive. The purpose of this chapter is to provide the reader with an overview of the products liability so-called playing field; thus the cases will not follow the same construction of previous cases from previous chapters, but will briefly state the facts, provide a concise case analysis, and provide a statement of the court’s ruling. Also, there will be a series of case discussions in the beginning of this chapter that are not based in pharmacy or pharmaceutical industry claims. Most of these original products liability cases were aimed at the early developments in the automotive industry and the different types of injuries or mishaps that were occurring in this industry as it was rapidly advancing. These introductory cases set the stage of how the tort of products liability began in the early part of the 1900s and evolved to include claims that involve pharmaceutical products.
REVIEW OF NON-PHARMACY-RELATED CASES OF IMPORTANCE THAT SET THE STAGE FOR LATER CASES DEALING WITH PHARMACEUTICALS
Early Automobile Products Liability Cases
The following products liability cases addressed concerns that were prevalent in the automobile industry—one of the major industries associated with products liability cases in the first half of the twentieth century. These cases serve as some of the most classic among those involving automobiles.
MACPHERSON V. BUICK MOTOR CO.
217 N.Y. 382 1916
MacPherson, as the plaintiff, purchased a Buick automobile from a Buick retail dealership. While driving the automobile manufactured by Buick Motor Co., the defendant, a wheel collapsed, causing MacPherson to be thrown out of the automobile and injured severely. MacPherson brought a negligence suit against the Buick Motor Co., claiming that the automobile sold to him was an inherently or imminently dangerous product placed in the marketplace. The Buick Motor Co., applying a contract theory, insisted that the responsible party for the injury caused to MacPherson was the retailer who sold MacPherson the car based upon a privity of contract argument. The court, however, abolished the privity of contract requirement in negligence cases, allowing MacPherson to prevail against the Buick Motor Co.
BAXTER V. FORD MOTOR CO.
168 Wash. 456 1932
The plaintiff, Baxter, was driving a Ford Motor automobile whose windshield that the defendant, Ford Motor Co., expressly stated in writing to Baxter, was shatter-proof. Baxter suffered injuries when a pebble struck the windshield, causing small pieces of glass to fly into Baxter’s eyes. Baxter sued Ford Motor Co., on a theory of misrepresentation. Again, even though Baxter was not the direct purchaser of the Ford vehicle, the court ruled that a manufacturer or retailer of a product is responsible for all representations made upon which the consumer must rely, regardless of a contractual relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant.
HENNINGSEN V. BLOOMFIELD MOTORS
161 A.2d 69 N.J. 1960