Appeal from Talladega Circuit Court. (CV-91-389). Jerry L. Fielding, TRIAL JUDGE.
Released for Publication January 17, 1995. As Amended.
Maddox, Shores, Houston, Steagall, and Kennedy, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam
The plaintiffs, James Brian Haisten ("Brian") and his wife Pamela D. Haisten, appeal from a judgment based on a jury verdict in favor of the defendants, Kubota Corporation and Kubota Tractor Corporation (collectively referred to as "Kubota").
Brian Haisten was injured when the tractor he was operating overturned and the rotary blade attached to the tractor cut his legs. The tractor had been manufactured by Kubota. Brian's left leg was amputated below the knee, and he lost the use of certain muscles in his right leg. The Haistens sued Kubota, alleging that the tractor was "defective" as that term is used in our cases establishing the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("AEMLD"), because it did not contain a rollover protection system ("ROPS"). They also alleged negligence and wantonness on the part of Kubota. The Haistens also sued Cahaba Tractor Company ("Cahaba"), which had sold them the tractor.
The jury heard evidence that while Brian was operating the tractor on a sloping bank near a road the tractor stopped and one of the the rear tires began to spin; that the spinning tire caused the tractor to slide down the slope; that Brian put the tractor into reverse gear and that his doing so caused the tractor to go further down the slope; that the front left tire then lifted off the ground; that as the tractor overturned, Brian jumped off, toward the road and upwards on the slope; and that at that point the rotary blade, still operating, hit Brian's legs and caused his injuries.
Both the Haistens and Kubota presented expert evidence concerning the tractor. The Haistens' expert testified that the tractor was defective without the ROPS. Kubota's expert testified that he would not operate a tractor on a slope and that the absence of a ROPS on the tractor did not make the tractor unreasonably dangerous or defective.
The jury found in favor of Kubota and Cahaba on all the claims. The trial court entered a judgment based on the verdict. The Haistens appeal, asserting four grounds for reversal. Cahaba is not a party to this appeal.
First, the Haistens argue that the trial court erred in not striking a juror for cause after she stated that she knew the children of one of the attorneys for Cahaba. The following exchange occurred between the Haistens' attorney and a juror:
"Attorney: Now Cahaba Tractor Company sold the tractor here in Alabama. They are down in Pelham, Alabama. The whole name is Marineland, Inc., doing business as Cahaba Tractor Company, but I think you're going to find all of them are going to call them Cahaba Tractor Company. They are represented by Ralph Gaines, Rad Gaines, and Mark Rasco with the Gaines, Gaines, and Gaines firm here in Talladega. Do any of y'all know any of the Gaineses? Yes, ma'am?
"Attorney: Thank you. Anyone else? Yes, ma'am?
"Juror Cross: I'm Mary Cross. Rad and I have children the same ages, and they are in a lot of ...