Angela Brewer, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Rickey A. Brewer, Deceased, Appellant (Plaintiff)
PACCAR, Inc. d/b/a Peterbilt Motors Co., Appellee (Defendant)
Argued: October 25, 2018
from the Morgan Circuit Court No. 55C01-1605-CT-691 The
Honorable Matthew G. Hanson, Judge On Petition to Transfer
from the Indiana Court of Appeals No. 55A05-1709-CT-2168
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT John P. Daly, Jr. Jared A. Harts
Golitko & Daly, P.C. Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Jeffrey J. Mortier Maggie L. Smith
Blake N. Shelby Frost Brown Todd LLC Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEY FOR AMICUS CURIAE THE INDIANA LEGAL FOUNDATION Mark
J. Crandley Barnes & Thornburg LLP Indianapolis, Indiana.
Indiana, when an individual is injured by a defectively
designed product, the Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA)
provides a basis for relief. The injured party may bring a
defective-design claim against the manufacturers of a
component part, as well as of the final product.
we address a narrow question regarding an IPLA design-defect
claim: when does a component-part manufacturer owe no duty,
as a matter of law, to install safety features that an
injured party alleges are necessary?
is the manufacturer of a "glider kit," a component
part that becomes an operable over-the-road semi-truck after
a purchaser installs an engine, transmission, and exhaust
system. The glider kit has a forty-foot blind spot behind it;
and it is PACCAR's standard practice not to include
certain safety features to mitigate that danger, unless a
customer specifically requests them.
driver backed up a semi with an integrated PACCAR glider kit
and struck and killed construction foreman Rickey Brewer. His
widow asserted a design-defect claim against PACCAR, alleging
that the lack of certain safety features rendered the glider
kit defective. PACCAR argued that it was entitled to summary
judgment because it owed no duty, as a matter of law, to
install those safety features-because this duty fell solely
on the final manufacturer of the completed semi.
these circumstances, PACCAR, as the component-part
manufacturer, is not entitled to summary judgment. Its glider
kit was not going to be incorporated into an end product that
had multiple anticipated configurations. Rather, the
component part had one reasonably foreseeable use: to be
integrated into an operable over-the-road semi. Thus, PACCAR
had to make one of two showings to be relieved of a duty, as
a matter of law, to include the allegedly necessary safety
features. It made neither.
did not show that the final manufacturer was offered, and
declined, the allegedly necessary safety features or that the
integrated glider kit can be used safely without them. Thus,
whether PACCAR owed Brewer a duty to include the features is
a question for the trier of fact.
while PACCAR may assert a sophisticated-user defense against
the design-defect claim, the merits of that defense are
likewise a question for the trier of fact. We accordingly
reverse the trial court's grant of summary judgment for
and Procedural History
manufactures vehicles and parts that W&W Transport uses
to conduct its trucking operations. One PACCAR product that
W&W purchases is a glider kit-the body and frame of a
semi-truck. W&W purchases glider kits, as opposed to new
vehicles, so that it can install its preferred engines,
producing more fuel-efficient semis that are easier to
2015, W&W bought a PACCAR sleeper-cab glider kit, and
installed an engine, transmission, and exhaust system,
rendering the glider kit an operable over-the-road
glider kit created a forty-foot blind spot directly behind
the semi. But PACCAR did not include certain safety
features-such as a rear-view window, a backup alarm, a backup
camera, or backup flashers-to alleviate the dangers
associated with the blind spot when the semi is reversed. And
PACCAR and W&W disagree about whether PACCAR offered
these features as options.
following year, W&W employee Raymond Miller was backing
up the completed semi at a construction site. He felt a
nudge, which is normally "nothing unusual." But he
was immediately alerted by a man pounding on his window,
urging him to pull forward. Construction foreman Rickey
Brewer had been pinned between the back of the truck and a
trailer and died from his injuries.
widow, Angela Brewer, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against
PACCAR. She asserted, in part, a defective-design claim under
the IPLA, alleging that PACCAR's glider kit was
unreasonably dangerous and defective because it lacked
certain safety features and warnings relating to the blind
moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had no duty, as a
matter of law, to install those safety features. To that end,
PACCAR argued that it did not manufacture the completed semi
and that the glider kit was not defective or unreasonably
dangerous when it left PACCAR's control. In support,
PACCAR included two affidavits from one of its engineers, who
stated that safety features were options for buyers to order,
and that PACCAR built the glider kit to W&W's design
response, Brewer argued that summary judgment was
inappropriate. She reasoned that there was evidence the
glider kit was defective under the IPLA because it lacked a
rear-view window, a backup alarm, a backup camera, backup
flashers, and warnings relating to the blind spot. In
support, she designated evidence including testimony and a
report prepared by an expert in auto-safety design. The
expert opined that the glider kit was defectively designed
and unreasonably dangerous because it lacked adequate backup
safety devices as standard installations.
trial court held a hearing on both PACCAR's motion for
summary judgment and Brewer's later cross-motion for
partial summary judgment. Brewer argued in her cross-motion
that under the IPLA, PACCAR owed a duty to Rickey as a
bystander. The court granted PACCAR's motion for summary
judgment and denied Brewer's cross-motion. Brewer
Court of Appeals reversed. It first held that summary
judgment in PACCAR's favor was improper because "it
should be a question of fact as to whether it was reasonable
for PACCAR to put a product into the stream of commerce that
lacked one or several" safety features. Brewer v.
PACCAR, Inc., 98 N.E.3d 83, 93 (Ind.Ct.App.),
aff'd on reh'g, 104 N.E.3d 625 (Ind.Ct.App.
2018). It then addressed Brewer's cross-motion for
partial summary judgment, ...