Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Expert Testimony Needed on Alternative Design Theories in Products Cases

In the case of Dunlap v. Fed. Signal Corp., 2018 Pa. Super. 231 (Pa. Super. Aug. 20, 2018 Bowes, J., Lazaurs, J., Ott, J.) (Op. by Bowes, J.)(Lazarus, J., Dissenting), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment for a Defendant in a products liability case in which it was asserted that the design of the siren caused the hearing loss of a class of firefighters.   The court ruled that an alternative product design’s compliance with governmental or industries standards, in the absence of expert testimony, was insufficient to establish that an alleged defective product was unreasonable dangerous.  

More specifically, the Superior Court agreed with the trial court’s finding that the Plaintiffs required expert testimony to establish that an alternative design of the siren just as an effective warning device for all persons, such as pedestrians, as the Plaintiff’s reference to the industry standard was not an acceptable substitute for such required expert testimony.   

Ultimately, the Superior Court affirmed the finding that the Plaintiffs’ expert’s failure to opine on the alternative design of the siren for the safety for pedestrians and motorists was fatal to the Plaintiff’s claim that the alternative design was an acceptable alternative design that would render the Defendant’s currently designed siren unreasonably dangerous.  

 Anyone wishing to review a copy of  Majority Opinion for this decision may click this LINK.  The Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE   

Sources:  “Court Summaries by the Clawges of the Pennsylvania Bar News (Sept. 10, 2018).   I also send thanks to Attorney Kenneth T. Newman of the Pittsburgh office of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer for bringing this case to my attention.

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