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Johnson v. Clark Equipment Co.

Supreme Court of Oregon
547 P.2d 132 (1976)


Johnson (plaintiff) was a forklift operator at a lumber company. Johnson was using a forklift manufactured by Clark Equipment Company (Clark) (defendant) to transport a bundle of lumber tied together with metal bands. Rather than get out of the forklift to cut the metal bands, Johnson reached through the forklift’s uprights from the driver’s seat and attempted to cut the bands. While reaching forward, Johnson inadvertently hit the lever controlling the forklift’s lifting forks. This caused the forks to rise and sever Johnson’s arms. Johnson brought a products-liability suit against Clark. At trial, Johnson presented evidence that his job was very hectic and that he was required to maintain a fast pace while fulfilling his duties. Johnson also testified that if he had enough time to think about the danger, he would not have put his arms through the uprights. Clark asserted the defense of assumption of the risk. The trial court instructed the jury on assumption of the risk, but did not include the element of the reasonableness of Johnson’s decision to assume the risk. The jury found in favor of Clark. Johnson appealed, arguing that the trial court’s jury instructions were insufficient.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Howell, J.)

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