Purdy v. Deere and Company

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 10-05-2016
  • Case #: A144265
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Lagesen, P.J. For the Court; Hadlock, C.J. & Schuman, S.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the standard of Estate of Michelle Schwarz v. Philip Morris, when an instruction is necessary to inform the jury of the parameters that it must apply in considering evidence, an instruction that does not completely and accurately describe those parameters is erroneous and objectionable, even if the omitted portion of those parameters would benefit the opposing party.

On remand from the Oregon Supreme Court, the Court considered Purdy’s assignment of error to the jury instructions regarding “mishandling,” in which Purdy argured that the trial court did not clarify the parameters the jury must apply in considering the evidence. The Court found that when an instruction is “necessary to inform the jury of the parameters that it must apply in considering evidence, an instruction that does not completely and accurately describe those parameters is erroneous and objectionable, even if the omitted portion of those parameters would benefit the opposing party.” Estate of Michelle Schwarz v. Philip Morris Inc., 348 Or 442, 454 (2010). Since the trial court did not instruct the jury as to how it should take into account any negligence or “mishandling” by the injured party, then it should have done so completely, by explaining how it bore on the jury’s decision if the jury found that the mower was not defective, and how it bore on the jury’s decision if the jury found that the mower was defective. In addition, incidental carelessness or negligent failure to discover or guard against a product defect is not an appropriate defense to a products liability action. The Court held that it is not appropriate for the factfinder to take that type of negligence by a product’s user into account when assessing whether a defective product is responsible for an injury that resulted from the use of the product. Products liability claim against Deere reversed and remanded; otherwise affirmed.

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