Monday, July 9, 2012

Federal Middle District Judge Jones Says Restatement (Second) Still Law in Pennsylvania

In his decision last week in the products liability case of Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp., No. 4:07-cv-0086 (M.D.Pa. July 3, 2012, Jones, J.), Federal Middle District Judge John E. Jones, III reviewed a variety of decisions on Pennsylvania products liability law and concluded that the Restatement (Second) of Torts still governs as opposed to the Restatement (Third) of Torts.

Judge John E. Jones, III
This case arises out of an airplane accident and came before the court at this time on motions for summary judgment.  Before deciding the case itself, Judge Jones needed to determine which Restatement of Torts to apply--the Restatement (Third) places a higher hurdle on a Plaintiff's burden of proof in that it requires the Plaintiff to show an element of intent on the part of the manufacturer.

Tort Talkers may recall that, in recent times, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has predicted on at least two occasions that, if faced with the issue, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would adopt the Restatement (Third) in the products liability context.  The Third Circuit most recently made this prediction in the Covell case, a summary of which can be reviewed here.

However, Judge Jones noted that, in recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions such as the Beard v. Johnson & Johnson decision, that court had declined to adopt the Restatement (Third) of Torts.  A Tort Talk reference to the Beard decision can be viewed here.

Judge Jones held that while predictions by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals were binding upon his court absent an affirmative indication that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would rule otherwise, he found that such an affirmative indication was seen in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Beard where the court declined to adopt the Restatement (Third).  It was therefore Judge Jones' belief that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has indicated that the Restatement (Second) remains the governing law of products liability cases in Pennsylvania.

Anyone wishing to review Judge Jones 38 paged Opinion in Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp. may click this LINK.

Source: "Restatement (Second) Still the Law in Pa., Federal Judge Says," by Saranac Hale Spencer of The Legal Intelligencer (July 9, 2012).

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