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The central issue at trial was the safety and suitability of the metal used in the plaintiff's Model 1100 shotgun barrel, and each side presented its own theory of the cause of the accident. Asked whether chrome molybdenum steel was "a better steel than using" AISI 1140 modified, Johnson replied, "Yes, perhaps that's true." The witness did not agree, however, that the presence of inclusions would weaken a gun barrel. E.2d 608 (adopting "flagrant indifference" standard for use in awarding punitive damages in products liability cases)), or measured against the more traditional phrasing of willful and wanton misconduct.
The barrel of the Model 1100 is made from a type of steel known as American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) 1140 modified. At the trial of the present case, the plaintiff introduced Johnson's testimony into evidence upon a showing that the witness was not available. That Johnson believed that another variety of steel might be superior does not mean that the type actually used by Remington was inadequate. At trial the parties' expert witnesses disagreed on the safety and suitability of the material used by Remington in the production of its Model 1100 shotgun barrels.
In each of the 94 cases, however, Remington believed that the explosion was caused by the use of a high-pressure shell. We agree with the appellate court that the relevance of this testimony was "tenuous, at best." (177 Ill. As we have noted, Hutton explained that the statement appearing in the catalogue was a mistake. It is of course true, as the majority notes, that where, as a matter of law, punitive damages cannot be awarded for a particular type of cause of action, a trial court cannot submit the question of punitive damages to the jury.
In addition, there was testimony indicating that in 1979 Remington had received reports of more than 100 barrel explosions occurring that year that did not result in personal injuries. E.2d 509; Restatement (Second) of Torts § 908(1) & comment a, at 464 (1979); Owen, Problems in Assessing Punitive Damages Against Manufacturers of Defective Products, 49 U. Moreover, Hutton was not the sole source of testimony concerning chrome molybdenum steel, for there was other, competent evidence indicating its desirability.
The plaintiff's own Model 1100 shotgun was manufactured by Remington in 1972. Hutton stated that until 1980 the company used a Verson extrusion press to produce the pieces that were forged into shotgun barrels. It is axiomatic that "[i]t is the function of the jury to assess the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be accorded their testimony * * *, and the jury's determination will not be overturned unless contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence." (Midland Hotel Corp. Finally, due to the fact that the jury did not believe Remington's claim that the explosion in this case was caused by a high-pressure shell, the jury may have doubted the veracity and sincerity of Remington's claims concerning the 94 prior cases.
The parties stipulated that by the time of the plaintiff's accident, in June 1983, Remington had received notice of 94 other barrel explosions involving Model 1100 shotguns and resulting in personal injuries. The catalogue contained the erroneous statement that the Model 1100 shotgun was made of chrome molybdenum steel. E.2d 1091.) There was no claim in the present case that Loitz relied on the 1980 catalogue statement as a representation of the metal composition of his own Model 1100 shotgun, or even that he purchased the gun in 1972 in reliance on a like representation.
In 89 of the cases, the persons involved claimed to have been using normal reloaded shells, while in the remaining five cases, the persons said they had used factory-made ammunition. 1, 7-8 (1982).) Because of their penal nature, punitive damages are not favored in the law. Hutton, in his testimony, acknowledged that the statement appeared in the catalogue; Hutton went on to explain that the statement was not true, and he attributed the mistake to the work of whoever was responsible for preparing the copy for the catalogue. We do not believe, however, that the evidence of the catalogue misstatement had any effect on the jurors' determination of liability or on their assessment of compensatory damages.
Following the accident Loitz underwent reconstructive surgery on his left hand, and his recovery has been virtually complete. According to Hutton, repair work on two of the earlier shotguns had reduced slightly the thickness of their barrel walls. In light of these factors, it would not have been against the manifest weight of the evidence for the jury to have disregarded the employees' testimony.
He incurred special damages of about ,000 in medical expenses and lost time from work. Hutton explained that the addition of a part to the barrel area of one of the guns, and certain restoration work on the barrel of another, had resulted in the removal of material from the outer surfaces of those barrels. E.2d 636 (evidence of prior accidents and complaints is admissible to establish notice of a defect)), or acted willfully and wantonly in failing to warn plaintiff of the defect in the gun (see Lipke v. Having done so, it would not have been against the manifest weight of the evidence for the jury to have awarded punitive damages based upon Remington's knowledge of the 94 explosions which took place prior to the plaintiff's accident in this case.
The plaintiff's unused shells were recovered from the scene and tested. As further evidence of Remington's awareness of the deficiencies of AISI 1140 modified steel, the plaintiff cites certain testimony given on an earlier occasion by Phillip Johnson, Remington's supervisor of chemical and metallurgical control, and introduced into evidence in this case. This court has stated that "[w]hile a trial court's determination [as to punitive damages] is always subject to review, we will not disturb that finding or substitute our own opinion unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence." (In re Estate of Wernick (1989), 127 Ill.2d 61, 85, 129 Ill. The jury could have concluded that Remington acted willfully or wantonly in failing to discover the defect in the gun after 94 complaints (see Hering, 12 Ill.2d at 562, 147 N.