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Whitehead v. Toyota Motor Corp.

Supreme Court of Tennessee
897 S.W.2d 684 (1995)


Facts

In 1992, Mark Whitehead (plaintiff) drove his 1988 Toyota pickup truck across the centerline of a road and collided with a vehicle headed in the opposite direction. Whitehead brought a suit for strict products liability against Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) (defendant), the manufacturer of the truck, claiming that the injuries he received during the crash were enhanced due to the defective seatbelt design of the Toyota pickup. At trial, Toyota attempted to introduce comparative-fault principles to reduce any potential recovery by Whitehead. Tennessee courts had not ruled on whether comparative-fault principles were applicable to strict-products-liability cases, and the federal district court certified the following two questions to the Supreme Court of Tennessee: (1) whether comparative-fault principles were applicable to strict-products-liability cases, and (2) if so, whether comparative-fault principles also applied to enhanced-injury cases. The Supreme Court of Tennessee accepted these questions.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is the black letter law upon which the court rested its decision.

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Issue

The issue section includes the dispositive legal issue in the case phrased as a question.

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Holding and Reasoning (Drowota, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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