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Strict Liability and Bystanders

15 January, 2016 - 09:34

Embs v. Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Lexington, Kentucky, Inc.

528 S.W.2d 703 (Ky. 1975)

Jukowsky, J.

On the afternoon of July 25, 1970 plaintiff-appellant entered the self-service retail store operated by the defendant-appellee, Stamper’s Cash Market, Inc., for the purpose of “buying soft drinks for the kids.” She went to an upright soft drink cooler, removed five bottles and placed them in a carton. Unnoticed by her, a carton of Seven-Up was sitting on the floor at the edge of the produce counter about one foot from where she was standing. As she turned away from the cooler she heard an explosion that sounded “like a shotgun.” When she looked down she saw a gash in her leg, pop on her leg, green pieces of a bottle on the floor and the Seven-Up carton in the midst of the debris. She did not kick or otherwise come into contact with the carton of Seven-Up prior to the explosion. Her son, who was with her, recognized the green pieces of glass as part of a Seven-Up bottle.

She was immediately taken to the hospital by Mrs. Stamper, a managing agent of the store. Mrs. Stamper told her that a Seven-Up bottle had exploded and that several bottles had exploded that week. Before leaving the store Mrs. Stamper instructed one of her children to clean up the mess. Apparently, all of the physical evidence went out with the trash. The location of the Seven-Up carton immediately before the explosion was not a place where such items were ordinarily kept.…

When she rested her case, the defendants-appellees moved for a directed verdict in their favor. The trial court granted the motion on the grounds that the doctrine of strict product liability in tort does not extend beyond users and consumers and that the evidence was insufficient to permit an inference by a reasonably prudent man that the bottle was defective or if it was, when it became so.

In [Citation] we adopted the view of strict product liability in tort expressed in Section 402 A of the American Law Institute’s Restatement of Torts 2d.