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Collins v. Uniroyal Inc.

Decided: June 22, 1973.

ELIZABETH V. COLLINS, GENERAL ADMINISTRATRIX AND ADMINISTRATRIX AD PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF MARTIN L. COLLINS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
UNIROYAL, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Carton, Mintz and Seidman.

Per Curiam

Plaintiff's intestate, an entertainer who, with his wife and daughter, travelled extensively throughout the country performing a knife-throwing act, was killed on March 27, 1967, in an automobile accident which occurred near Chicago while they were enroute to an engagement in Des Moines, Iowa.

About five months earlier the decedent had bought five new tires for his station wagon from a Uniroyal distributor. On the day in question, the three were proceeding along Interstate Highway 80, their station wagon being loaded with their personal belongings and the paraphernalia of their act. The right rear tire failed, causing the vehicle to go out of control and roll over. Decedent sustained fatal injuries.

Decedent's widow, as general administratrix and as administratrix ad prosequendum, instituted suit against Uniroyal to recover damages for her husband's death, asserting as causes of action strict liability in tort and breach of express warranty. At the trial the cause was submitted to the jury on both theories with instructions, in the event of a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, to state whether the basis of recovery was strict liability in tort, breach of express warranty, or both. A verdict was returned for plaintiff in the sum of $125,000 for breach of warranty.

Defendant appeals, contending that the trial court erred in denying its motion for dismissal of the action for strict liability in tort; that the express warranty issue was improperly restricted in scope and incorrectly submitted to the jury; that certain evidence was erroneously received; and that plaintiff's expert lacked the qualifications to express an opinion on causation.

On the first point, defendant argues that the issue of strict liability in tort should not have been sent to the jury because all the experts testified there was no defect

in the tire. There is no need to consider whether the argument has merit. Since the jury chose to return its verdict on the basis of breach of express warranty, the issue of strict liability in tort is moot and if there was error in sending that issue to the jury, it was obviously harmless. The submission of a case to a jury which reaches the same result which it is contended the court should have reached furnishes no ground for reversal. Courtois v. General Motors Corp., 37 N.J. 525, 548 (1962); Manning v. Public Service Elec. & Gas Co., 58 N.J. Super. 386, 397 (App. Div. 1959).

The jury's verdict also disposes of the contentions, if otherwise meritorious, that plaintiff's expert lacked sufficient qualifications to testify and that his testimony regarding a possible defect should have been excluded.

Defendant does not dispute the existence of the express warranty issue; in fact, its position is that this should have been the sole issue presented to the jury. It urges, however, that the court erred in permitting certain testimony of the investigating state trooper, that the court erroneously received in evidence defendant's advertisement, that the instructions to the jury were inaccurate, and that the court improperly removed from the jury's consideration the limitation of damages provision of the warranty.

The warranty, according to Mrs. Collins's testimony, was given to her husband at the time he bought the tires. Its pertinent language is as follows:

The new U.S. Royal Master tire with wrap-around tread and pin stripe (1/2 inch) whitewall design is of such quality and reliability that U.S. Rubber Tire Company makes the following Guarantee:

LIFETIME -- Every such U.S. Royal Master tire of our manufacture, bearing our name and serial number, other than "seconds," is guaranteed to be free from defects in workmanship and material for the life of ...


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