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Smith v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc.

Oregon Supreme Court
525 P.2d 1299 (1974)


Marilyn Smith (plaintiff) suffered severe burns when her fake fur coat burst into flames in a gasoline fire at a service station. Someone used a pressurized air hose to blow out a gas line. Gas sprayed from the vehicle’s gas tank, through an open doorway, and into the waiting room. A floor heater ignited the gas, which ignited Smith’s coat. Smith sued the gas station, its owners, the fabric manufacturer, the coat maker, and the store that sold it, J.C. Penney Co., Inc. (defendants). The service station owners asked the court to instruct the jury that if it found the other actors’ conduct such a predominant cause of Smith’s injuries that the station’s conduct became insignificant, then the jury could not consider the station’s conduct a substantial factor in causing Smith’s injuries. The court refused to give the requested instruction and the jury returned a $600,000 verdict against the station and the fabric manufacturer. Both appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Denecke, J.)

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