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Denny v. Ford Motor Co.

Court of Appeals of New York
639 N.Y.S.2d 250 (1995)


Facts

Nancy Denny and her husband (plaintiff) filed suit in federal district court against Ford Motor Company (Ford) (defendant) after Nancy was severely injured when the Ford Bronco II she was driving rolled over in response to her slamming the brakes in order to avoid hitting a deer. Nancy asserted claims of negligence, strict products liability, and breach of implied warranty of merchantability. At trial, the Dennys presented evidence that the Bronco II’s high center of gravity, narrow track width, and short wheel base resulted in increased instability making it much more susceptible to rollovers. Ford countered that the Bronco II was never designed to serve as an on-the-road vehicle, but rather was made for off-road use over rugged terrain. Despite Ford’s claims, the Dennys introduced a Ford marketing manual which predicted that the Bronco II would be well regarded by suburban consumers and city commuters. At the close of the evidence, the district court told the jury that, with respect to the strict products liability claim, a manufacturer is liable for injury caused by its product when was used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. With respect to the breach of implied warranty claim, the court told the jury that if the Bronco II was not reasonably fit to be used for its intended purpose, the warranty had been breached. The jury held for Ford on the strict products liability claim, but in favor of the Dennys on the implied warranty claim and awarded $1.2 million in damages. Ford appealed. The court of appeals certified a question to the Court of Appeals of New York, namely whether, under state law, an action for implied warranty of merchantability was the same as an action based on strict products liability.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Titone, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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