E. J. Pontifex (plaintiff) was using a pull-start lawnmower manufactured by Sears, Roebuck & Company (Sears) (defendant). The rope that was used to start the lawnmower struck Pontifex in the eye, injuring her. The rope was not affixed to a spring-recoil mechanism, as this type of mechanism was not in use when Pontifex’s lawnmower was manufactured. Spring-recoil mechanisms were used in newer lawnmowers manufactured after Pontifex’s injury. Pontifex brought suit, alleging that Sears was negligent for not designing Pontifex’s lawnmower with a spring-recoil mechanism. The district court directed a verdict for Sears. Pontifex appealed.