Procedural Posture

Appellee buyer filed an action against appellant seller for breach of warranty and against appellant manufacturer for negligence to recover damages resulting from an accident when a semi-trailer collided into its tractor. The Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco (California) granted the manufacturer’s new trial motion and denied the manufacturer and seller’s motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. All parties appealed.

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Overview

The buyer operated a trucking service and purchased fifth wheels from the seller. The buyer purchased a semi-trailer and a tractor, on which a fifth wheel was installed by the seller. While transporting a shipment, the bearings on the fifth wheel, which was made by the manufacturer, broke, and the semi-trailer fell against an embankment. The seller and manufacturer argued the denial of the motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict was erroneous; the buyer argued the grant of a new trial was erroneous. The court held the denial of the judgment notwithstanding the verdict was proper because (1) the seller breached the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose under the Uniform Sales Act, specifically Cal. Civ. Code § 1735; (2) the seller knew the purpose for which the fifth wheel was required, the buyer relied on the seller’s judgment to select and to install the wheel, which was properly serviced and maintained; and (3) there was conflicting evidence on the manufacturer’s negligence and privity of contract was not required. The grant of a new trial was proper because the evidence and inferences therefrom that the fifth wheel was brittle were in conflict.

Outcome

The court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of the seller’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and grant of the manufacturer’s motion for new trial; dismissed the manufacturer’s appeal from the denial of its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict; and reversed the judgment against the seller on the issue of the amount of damages suffered and remanded for a new trial on such issue of damages.