Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lindholm v. Bmw of North America, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 3, 2017

Bruce Lindholm, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Alexander Nels Lindholm; Vanoosheh Lindholm, individually Plaintiffs - Appellants
BMW of North America, LLC Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: June 5, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of South Dakota - Pierre

          Before WOLLMAN, ARNOLD, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

          ARNOLD, Circuit Judge.

         Using a jack supplied by his car's manufacturer, Alex Lindholm was repairing his car when, tragically, it fell and killed him. Relying on federal courts' diversity jurisdiction, Alex's father sued BMW of North America, LLC, the car's American distributor, on behalf of Alex's estate, and both of Alex's parents sued in their individual capacities. They laid claims for strict liability based on defective design, negligence, negligent design, breach of implied warranties, and wrongful death. The district court[1] granted BMW's motion for summary judgment on each of the Lindholms' claims, and they appeal.

         The day before the accident, while working on the car's exhaust system located near the center of the car's undercarriage, Alex and his father used the relevant jack to raise it off the ground. Alex told his father that the jack was the proper one for the job. After using the jack to raise the car, Alex placed a jack stand under it to hold it in place while they worked.

         Alex continued working on the job the next day. When one of his friends picked him up at one point to run errands, the friend noticed that the car was lifted in the back passenger area with the jack. Alex informed the friend that he wanted to use that particular jack because it was the manufacturer's jack. Other jacks and jack stands were in the storage unit where the work was performed, but on the day of the accident, only the jack in question supported the car. While Alex was working, the jack evidently tipped and the car fell on him. He asphyxiated and died.

         The Lindholms' expert testified that the jack was not defective per se but that that type of jack represented a "regression in design" that compromised safety. In reaching the conclusion that the jack was unsafe, he noted its narrow base, its plastic (rather than steel) pivot head, and two polymer castings in the upper pivot that "click" together to fit, whereas other jacks are "rigidly pinned" together. He calculated that the jack could bear a lateral load of up to 65 pounds while fully extended, whereas a different kind of jack known as a scissor jack with a wider base could withstand a lateral load of up to 260 pounds while fully extended, at least in part because it has a wider base. He opined that jacks like the one Alex used are defective and unreasonably dangerous because consumers do not always use them correctly.

         BMW's expert thought that the deficiencies that the Lindholms' expert identified either did not cause the accident or were not deficiencies at all. He explained that Alex was probably able to use enough force to knock the jack over only by rocking the car back and forth. Based on his opinion that Alex had to be rocking the car back and forth, he thought it was likely that Alex was trying to loosen an intractable bolt. Alex's father had found items under the car after the accident that were consistent with this hypothesis: In fact, Alex's father tried to loosen the bolt in question, but it was on so tight that the bolt broke off in his effort to remove it.

         We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Jackson v. Riebold, 815 F.3d 1114, 1119 (8th Cir. 2016). We will affirm if the record indicates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Id. We review the facts in the light most favorable to the Lindholms. See id. We apply state substantive law in diversity cases, and where state courts have not decided a particular substantive legal issue of relevance, we must try to predict how the state's highest court would do so and decide the case accordingly. See Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab., Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 936-37 (8th Cir. 2012).

         We turn first to the Lindholms' design-defect claim. South Dakota has adopted the rule of strict liability set out in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 402A, Karst v. Shur-Co., 878 N.W.2d 604, 609 (S.D. 2016), which says that "[o]ne who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer . . . is subject to liability for physical harm thereby caused." So to prevail, the Lindholms must prove that the jack Alex used was defective and unreasonably dangerous and that it caused the injury sustained. See Brech v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., 698 F.2d 332, 333-34 (8th Cir. 1983).

         The district court concluded that BMW was not liable because Alex had misused the jack on the day of the accident. Misuse can involve using a product for an unintended function or using the product for its intended function but in an improper manner. Peterson v. Safway Steel Scaffolds, Co., 400 N.W.2d 909, 913 (S.D. 1987). Though a product manufacturer can be liable for a customer's reasonably foreseeable misuse, id., a manufacturer cannot be liable for a misuse that it cannot reasonably anticipate. Kappenman v. Action Inc., 392 N.W.2d 410, 413 (S.D. 1986).

         The parties dispute whether Alex misused the jack. The Lindholms argue that Alex used the jack in exactly the way it was intended to be used-to lift a car. They also maintain that, should we nonetheless conclude that Alex misused the jack, BMW should be liable because his misuse was reasonably foreseeable. BMW emphasizes the warnings that Alex disregarded: The car's owner's manual said that the jack "is designed for changing tires only" and that one should "[n]ever lie beneath the vehicle or start the engine while the car is supported by the jack - risk of fatal injury!" And a picture on the jack itself warned against lying under the car while using the jack. BMW argues that Alex's disregard for these warnings resulted in misuse.

         We agree with BMW and the district court that a reasonable jury would have to conclude that Alex misused the jack. Though it could be said that Alex used the jack for its intended purpose-to lift a car-he did so in an improper manner. See Peterson, 400 N.W.2d at 913. The warnings in the owner's manual and on the jack made it clear that Alex should not have used the jack while doing something other than changing a tire or while lying under the car. Alex could have used other available jacks or jack stands to support the car; in fact, the evidence showed that he had done so the day before the fatal accident. Besides, the Lindholms' argument that Alex used the jack ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.