Thursday, February 24, 2011

Case Brief: Salladin v. Tellis

Today's case brief is Salladin v. Tellis, 247 S.C. 267, 146 S.E.2d 875 (1966). This an older, short opinion that reviews the landmark case of MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050 (1916) and the concept of privity in tort law.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND: The decedent was electrocuted while working in the repair and renovation of a pharmacy in Charleston, South Carolina. 247 S.C. at 269, 146 S.E.2d at 876. As alleged in the Complaint, decedent "came into contact with a highly charged piece of metal." Id.

PROCEDURE: Plaintiff brought a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent's estate against numerous defendants. 247 S.C. at 269, 146 S.E.2d at 876. Defendant Universal Manufacturing Corporation ("Defendant"), a manufacturer of electrical transformers and devices, demurred to the Complaint on grounds of lack of privity between Defendant and the decedent. Id. Defendant also argued that the decedent was not a vendee of Defendant's product and was not using the product at the time of his injury. Id. The circuit court overruled the demurrer. Id.

ISSUE(S): Defendant appealed the overruling of the demurrer by the circuit court.

DISPOSITION: The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's decision.

RULES AND OPINION: The court reviewed the "celebrated decision" in MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050 (1916) which established that the manufacturer of a product which, when put to its intended use, is imminently dangerous if defective, is liable in tort for negligence in its manufacture. 247 S.C. at 269, 146 S.E.2d at 876. The court noted that the MacPherson case abolished the concept of privity in products liability cases and that a manufacturer's duty extends to anyone who may reasonably be expected to be in the vicinity of a products probable use and to be endangered if the product is defective. Id. at 269-70, 146 S.E.2d at 876-77. The court cited to the following rule as the applicable law for opposing the demurrer:
A manufacturer who fails to exercise reasonable care in the manufacture of a chattel which, unless carefully made, he should recognize as involving an unreasonable risk of causing physical harm to those who use it for a purpose for which the manufacturer should expect it to be used and to those whom he should expect to be endangered by its probable use, is subject to liability for physical harm caused to them by its lawful use in a manner and for a purpose for which it is supplied.
Id. at 271, 146 S.E.2d at 877. Therefore, in this case, it did not matter that the decedent lacked privity and/or was not a vendor of the product.

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