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Flaminio v. Honda Motor Co.

733 F.2d 463 (1984)

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Flaminio v. Honda Motor Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

733 F.2d 463 (1984)

Facts

Forrest Flaminio (plaintiff) bought a motorcycle that was manufactured by Honda Motor Company of Japan (Japanese Honda) (defendant) and distributed by Honda Motor Company, Ltd. (American Honda) (defendant). Flaminio had one or two drinks and then drove the motorcycle. Flaminio was traveling at least 50 miles per hour in a leaned-back position when he felt the motorcycle’s front end vibrate. Flaminio attempted to look at the front wheel, but he came off the seat some while looking. At that point, the motorcycle wobbled out of control and crashed, causing Flaminio to become a paraplegic. After the accident, Japanese Honda changed the motorcycle’s design to use thicker struts to connect the handlebars to the front wheel. Flaminio sued Japanese Honda and American Honda, claiming that the wobble was a design defect. The district court found that the postaccident change to the strut design was a subsequent remedial measure and applied Rule of Evidence 407 to exclude the evidence from trial. At trial, Japanese Honda did not deny that it might have been feasible to change the motorcycle’s design to reduce its tendency to wobble. Instead, Japanese Honda argued that reducing wobble might have increased the motorcycle’s tendency to weave, and that the company believed that weaving was the greater danger for that model. The jury found that Japanese Honda was not liable for any of the claims. The jury found that American Honda was partially responsible for the accident but that Flaminio was more responsible, which meant that American Honda did not owe Flaminio any damages. Flaminio appealed, claiming that the district court should have allowed him to use evidence of the strut-design change to prove that a safer design was feasible and should have allowed him to use this evidence to impeach Japanese Honda.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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