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Egelhoff v. Holt
Missouri Supreme Court
875 S.W.2d 543 (1994)
Linda Holt (defendant) had an aboveground swimming pool manufactured by Kero Metal Products (Kero) (defendant). The pool had several insertable plastic caps designed to cover the top of the pool-deck-railing support posts. The plastic caps would often fall on the ground. One day Holt picked up the caps but did not put them back on the posts, and after cleaning the pool, she invited Anita Egelhoff (plaintiff) to swim. Egelhoff cut her thumb on a support post and fell into the pool, injuring her back. Egelhoff sued Holt for negligence and Kero for strict liability of a defective product under Missouri Approved Instruction (MAI) 25.04 and for strict liability of a failure to warn under MAI 25.05. Egelhoff testified that she did not look where she put her hand and that if she had looked, she would have never put her hand on top of the post because it was very sharp. Egelhoff also testified she frequently swam in Holt's pool. The jury found Egelhoff 80 percent at fault, Kero 15 percent at fault, and Holt five percent at fault. Egelhoff appealed the trial court’s denial of her motion for a new trial. Kero moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), arguing that there was no defect when the pool left its possession, and that the pool was modified because the caps on the support posts were cut. The trial court denied Kero’s motion for JNOV. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Egelhoff’s motion for a new trial and reversed the trial court's denial of Kero’s motion for JNOV. The jury instruction given at Kero’s request included negligent assumption of the risk and contributory negligence. Egelhoff argued that it was improper to submit a comparative-fault instruction in strict products-liability cases, and that the comparative-fault instruction did not follow MAI 32.28. Egelhoff and Kero both appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)
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