Duquesne Law Review


Harry M. Philo


Less than two years after the 1961 Pontiac Tempest was introduced to the public, the General Motors Corporation was faced with more than one hundred and fifty product liability cases arising from the defective design of the front-end main cross member. With the knowledge that numerous accidents had occurred as a direct result of the car being suspended on railroad tracks, manhole covers, tree stumps, and trolley tracks, the manufacturers were forced to redesign the model before the test year had ended. However, by June of 1965, General Motors again found itself a party to at least one hundred and sixty major lawsuits-this time involving the design of the rear suspension system in the 1960 through 1963 Corvair models. When, in January of 1965, a South Carolina jury returned a verdict of seven hundred eighty thousand dollars ($780,000.00) against the Ford Motor Company and another defendant upon the claim that Ford had been negligent in its failure to adequately guard the gear shift lever on its 1949 Ford, the concept of automobile products liability became an accepted basis for securing responsibility in negligence cases.

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