Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Middle District Splits on Proper Analysis for Products Cases

Differing decisions continue to come down on the Restatement (Second) versus the Restatement (Third) of Torts dispute in Pennsylvania products liability cases.

In his recent decision in the Pennsylvania Federal Middle District case of Vaskas v. Kenworth, 3:10 CV-1024  (M.D.Pa. Jan. 3, 2013), Judge A. Richard Caputo followed the Third Circuit's prediction that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would adopt the Restatement (Third) of Torts analysis of products liability cases if squarely faced with the issue.  In so ruling, Judge Caputo granted summary judgment to the defendant on several claims arising out of an incident during which a truck driver allegedly fell from the steps of a tractor trailer.

Although fellow Middle District Federal Court Judge John E. Jones, III ruled last summer in Sikkelee v. Precision Automotive that the Restatement (Second) analysis should be utilized in products cases given that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to adopt the Restatement (Third) analysis in Beard v. Johnson, Judge Caputo noted in Vaskas that "[o]nce the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit predicts how a state's highest court would resolve an issue, district courts within the district are bound by this prediction 'unless the state Supreme Court issues a contrary decision or it appears from a subsequent decision of the appellate courts that the court of appeals erred.'" (quoting Largoza v. General Electric, 538 F.Supp. 1164, 1166   (E.D.Pa. 1982)).

Applying the Restatement (Third) analysis led Judge Caputo to enter summary judgment on several of the Plaintiff's claims.

To review Judge Caputo's Order in Vaskas click HERE.  To review Judge Caputo's Opinion, click HERE.

Source:  Article:  "Another Federal Judge Insists Pa. Will Pick Restatement (Third)" by Saranac Hale Spencer, The Legal Intelligencer (Jan. 15, 2013).


With this decision, the Middle District of Pennsylvania now joins the Western District of Pennsylvania as having conflicting decisions within a district on this important issue. 

Click HERE for previous Tort Talk posts covering this ongoing dispute over the proper analysis for Pennsylvania products liability cases.

It appears that confusion will continue to reign on this issue until the question reaches the Pennsylvania Supreme Court again.

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