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West v. Caterpillar Tractor Company

336 So. 2d 80 (1976)

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West v. Caterpillar Tractor Company

Florida Supreme Court

336 So. 2d 80 (1976)

Facts

Gwendolyn West was struck and run over by a caterpillar grader on a street under construction in Miami, Florida. Gwendolyn had been waiting for a bus and was walking across the street and looking in her purse when the accident happened. After six days in the hospital, Gwendolyn died of massive internal injuries. Gwendolyn’s husband, Leon West (plaintiff), filed a products-liability suit against the manufacturer of the grader, Caterpillar Tractor Company, Inc. (Caterpillar) (defendant), and alleged negligent design and breach of warranty. Leon alleged the grader was negligently designed because it had no audible warning system for when the machine was backing up and it lacked adequate rear-view mirrors and the rear-view mirrors created a blind spot when the machine was reversed. The jury found Caterpillar liable on all theories and concluded that Gwendolyn’s negligence contributed to the accident by 35 percent. The trial court disregarded the contributory negligence finding and entered judgment for Leon because it found that contributory negligence was no defense to strict liability in Florida. Caterpillar appealed. Questions about Florida products-liability law were certified to the Florida Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Adkins, J.)

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