Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Judge Brann of Middle District Applies Tincher in Recent Products Liability Case

In his recent decision in the case of Fassett v. Sears Holdings, No. 4:15-cv-00941 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 28, 2015, Brann, J.), United States District Judge Matthew W. Brann granted in part and denied in part various Motions to Dismiss filed by separate Defendants Sears and Kohler Co. in a products liability case involving a Plaintiff allegedly injured when his riding lawnmower allegedly exploded and caused personal injuries.

The Court found that many of the claims were sufficiently pled and ruled that other issues should be allowed to proceed into the discovery phase of the matter.

The Court did grant a Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiff’s wife’s claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress given that the Plaintiff-wife did not actual witness her husband being injured, but rather arrived at the scene after the fact while medics were attending to the Plaintiff.

In the case, the Plaintiffs alleged that the lawnmower defectively designed, manufactured, and sold in a dangerous or hazardous condition and in the manner that did not include adequate safety devices. The Plaintiff alleged that an explosion with the lawnmower occurred during routine use of the machine and that the Defendants knew or should have known that it was possible for the machine to explode and catch fire. In the Complaint, the Plaintiff asserted allegations of negligence, strict liability for design defect, breach of warranty, gross negligence, recklessness, and other claims.

Judge Matthew W. Brann
Judge Brann denied the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the punitive damages claims indicating that the Plaintiffs had alleged that the lawnmower was sold by the Defendants despite the Defendant’s alleged knowledge of its dangers. The Court stated that this issue should be allowed to be reviewed and developed through discovery.

The Court did grant the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the Breach of Implied Warranty Claims under a statute of limitations argument.

Notably, Judge Brann also cited to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Tincher v. Omega Flex in allowing the strict liability claims asserted against Defendant Kohler to proceed into the discovery phase.

Anyone wishing to review this Opinion by Judge Brann may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Kenneth T. Newman of the Pittsburgh office of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer for bringing this decision to my attention.

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