Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Federal Middle District Court Judge Mannion Applies Restatement (Third) in Products Liability Case

In his recent decision in the case of Varner v. MHS, Ltd.,No. 3:11-2138 (M.D. Pa. March 6, 2014, Mannion, J.), Judge Malachy E. Mannion applied the Restatement (Third) in a products liability action arising from an incident during which the Plaintiff was injured at work while using a nylon strap or sling to lift heavy equipment.   The nylon strap allegedly broke and heavy equipment allegedly contacted the Plaintiff’s person and allegedly resulted in a personal injury.  

After the completion of discovery, the defense filed a Motion for Summary Judgment against the Plaintiff’s claims for strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty.   The Defendant argued that summary judgment was appropriate as the nylon sling was not an unreasonably dangerous product, that the Defendant gave adequate warning, and that the Plaintiff’s misuse of the product was the cause of the Plaintiff’s accident.

In response, the Plaintiff argued the “malfunction” theory of products liability and additionally asserted that the Defendant failed to properly warn of possible dangers with the use of the strap.  

Judge Malachy E. Mannion
As noted above, Judge Mannion applied the Restatement (Third) to the Motion for Summary Judgment presented.  Ultimately, the Court granted the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the Plaintiff’s claim for a design defect, failure to warn, and breach of the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.  

However, given the issues of fact and credibility issues existing, the court denied summary judgment on the court’s claims based upon an alleged manufacturing defect and/or an alleged breach of the warranty of merchantability .   Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click this LINK.

This case has been added to the Tort Talk Products Liability Scorecard which can always be accessed by this LINK or by going to and scrolling down the right hand column to click on the link to the Scorecard there.
A review of the Tort Talk Products Liability Scorecard confirms an ongoing debate and split amongst various Pennsylvania Courts on whether the Restatement of Torts (Second) or (Third) should continue to be applied in products case.

We continue to await the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's latest pronouncement on this important issue in the Tincher v. Omega Flex case.  

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