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Calhoun v. Honda Motor Company

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
738 F.2d 126 (1984)


Facts

Richard Calhoun (plaintiff) washed his Honda 750 CB motorcycle, drove to his aunt’s house, braking at least twice along the way, then parked it outside for 20 minutes. Next, Calhoun drove several miles before hitting a stopped tractor trailer. Calhoun could not remember what happened beforehand, but the motorcycle left 40 feet of skid marks on the road. Calhoun sued Honda Motor Company (defendant) for strict products liability, based on a letter that Honda sent recalling the motorcycle five months before the accident. A Honda executive testified that Honda recalled the motorcycle because customers complained that heavy rains reduced its braking performance. Honda corrected the problem by cutting grooves in the brake pads, allowing water to escape. Calhoun’s expert, Stanley Klein, testified that uncontrolled braking performance caused the brakes to lock up and Calhoun to lose control. When Honda’s counsel asked Klein if he had an opinion on whether the brakes were wet at the time, Klein said he did, based on Calhoun’s washing the brakes with a high-pressure hose shortly beforehand. But Klein did not know how much time had passed, how far Calhoun had travelled, how many stops Calhoun had made, the material of the brake pads, or their drying time. When opposing counsel asked if Klein knew whether the brakes locking up or Calhoun “just not reacting to the situation” caused the accident, Klein replied, “I have no way of knowing,” and admitted the motorcycle could have left 40-foot skid marks with perfectly dry brakes. Honda introduced evidence that the brake pads contacted the discs constantly and would have rubbed dry in about 125 feet. Calhoun did not present evidence showing otherwise. The jury found for Calhoun, but the judge ruled for Honda, reasoning that Klein had no basis for opining that the brakes were wet when the accident occurred, meaning Calhoun failed to prove the brake defect caused the collision. Calhoun appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Keith, J.)

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