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07/06/78 CHERYL SMITH v. ARIENS COMPANY

July 6, 1978

CHERYL SMITH
v.
ARIENS COMPANY



Bristol. Tort. Writ in the Superior Court dated February 23, 1972. The action was tried before Rutledge, J. After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.

Quirico, Kaplan, Liacos, & Abrams, JJ.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Evidence, Identity of manufacturer. Negligence, Manufacturer, Snowmobile. Practice, Civil, Directed verdict.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Abrams

In an action to recover damages for injuries sustained by the plaintiff while she was operating a snowmobile, evidence that a decal on the snowmobile had the defendant's name on it was sufficient to identify the defendant as the manufacturer of the snowmobile. [621-623]

A manufacturer of snowmobiles owed a duty to users of its snowmobiles to design them so as to avoid unreasonable risks of injury following a collision. [623-625]

In an action to recover damages for injuries sustained by the plaintiff while she was operating a snowmobile which hit a rock causing her face to hit a brake bracket with two sharp metal protrusions, evidence, including the existence and placement of the protrusions and the absence of guards to cover them, was sufficient to allow the jury to determine whether the snowmobile was negligently designed even though the plaintiff presented no expert testimony. [625]

In a products liability case based on a theory of negligent design, the plaintiff was not required to negate the possibility of mishandling by intermediaries. [625-627]

The plaintiff Cheryl Smith (Smith) seeks to recover damages from the defendant manufacturer Ariens Company (Ariens) *fn1 for injuries sustained by her while she was operating an Ariens snowmobile.

On March 1, 1970, Smith, after receiving instructions concerning the operation of the snowmobile, operated it in a field. The snowmobile hit a rock which was partially covered by snow. On impact, the right side of Smith's face came down and hit a brake bracket on the left side of the snowmobile. The brake bracket had two sharp metal protrusions on the inside which were toward the plaintiff's face. As a result of the injuries she sustained, Smith required hospitalization and surgery.

The case was tried before a jury in the Superior Court. At the close of the plaintiff's case, the defendant moved for a directed verdict. The Judge granted this motion and entered judgment for the defendant Ariens. The Appeals Court affirmed the judgment. 5 Mass. App. Ct. 791 (1977). We granted further appellate review. We reverse and order a new trial.

1. Identification of manufacturer. The defendant first argues that since the only evidence introduced at trial tending to show that the defendant was the manufacturer was the presence on the snowmobile of a decal which read "Ariens," there was insufficient evidence to identify the defendant as the manufacturer of the snowmobile. Even assuming that the name "Ariens" on the decal was the only evidence on this issue, *fn2 we disagree that insufficient evidence was introduced to identify the defendant as the manufacturer.

In Doyle v. Continental Baking Co., 262 Mass. 516 (1928), we concluded that a label on which the defendant's name appeared was sufficient to identify the defendant as the manufacturer of the product. Since the name was registered as a trademark, under Federal law no one but the defendant had a right to use this name. General Laws c. 156B, § 11 (a), provides similar protection for the names or trade names of corporations established or carrying on business in this Commonwealth: no other corporation may assume that name or trade name. Thus, if a defendant's name is registered as a trademark or is a trade name, the appearance of that name on the product in question is sufficient to identify the defendant as the manufacturer. See Nugent v. Popular Mkts., Inc., 353 Mass. 45 (1967). See also Portland Me. Publishing Co. v. Eastern Tractors Co., 289 Mass. 13, 17-18 (1935); Weiner v. D.A. Schulte, Inc., 275 Mass. 379, 383-384 (1931). To the extent that there is language to the contrary in Jacobs v. Hertz Corp., 358 Mass. 541 (1970), Shachoy v. Chevrolet Motor Co., 280 Mass. 442 (1932), and Murphy v. Campbell Soup Co., 62 F.2d 564 (1st Cir. 1933), we decline to follow that language.

Several rationales underlie the acceptance of this rule. First, since trademarks and trade names are protected under statutes, the probability that a particular name will be used by another corporation is very low. See Doyle v. Continental Baking Co., supra at 519. Second, since the probability is very high that the corporation whose name appears on a product is the corporation which manufactured the product, judicial efficiency will be served by allowing the identity of the name on a product and the defendant's name to satisfy the plaintiff's burden of identifying the defendant as the manufacturer. See Flood v. Belfast & Moosehead Lake R.R., 157 Me. 317, 318-319 (1961). Finally, the presence of trademarks or trade names on products is accepted and relied on in daily life as sufficient proof of the manufacturer of the product. This common acceptance, which has been reinforced by manufacturers' advertising, ...


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