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Pietrone v. American Honda Motor Co.

California Court of Appeal
189 Cal. App. 3d 1057 (1987)


Facts

Alison Pietrone (plaintiff) was riding behind her husband on a motorcycle. The rear wheel of the motorcycle had exposed spokes and was very close to the foot pegs where passengers placed their feet. An oncoming car made a U-turn in front of Pietrone and her husband. The car’s bumper hit Pietrone’s left leg, breaking it. Pietrone was unable to control her broken leg. Pietrone’s left foot got caught in the spokes of the motorcycle’s rear wheel, then lodged in front of the shock absorber. Pietrone’s foot remained pinned until firemen cut away the motorcycle’s shock absorber using the “jaws of life.” As a result of these injuries, Pietrone’s left leg had to be amputated below the knee. Pietrone sued the maker of the motorcycle, American Honda Motor Co. (Honda) (defendant). At trial, Pietrone presented evidence that a design feature of the motorcycle was the proximate cause of her injury. Specifically, the motorcycle’s open, exposed spokes on the rear wheel caused the amputation of Pietrone’s foot. Honda moved for a directed verdict. Honda argued that Pietrone had failed to make out a prima facie case for strict product liability because she failed to present any evidence with regard to how the motorcycle could have been more safely designed to prevent injuries like her own. The trial court denied Honda’s motion for a directed verdict. The jury found in favor of Pietrone. Honda appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gates, J.)

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