Friday, October 19, 2018

Western Pennsylvania Federal District Court Reaffirms Several Products Liability Principles of Law

In the Western District Federal Court case of Chandeler v. L’Oreal USA, Inc., 2:17-CV-01141 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 14, 2018 Fisher, J.), the court reaffirmed several important principles of products liability law.   

In the end, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant on the basic rationale that the Plaintiff had failed to prove that the product was defective, which is fatal to claims for strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and violations of the Unfair Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Law.  

 The court additionally noted that the Defendant’s warnings on the product warned about the type of injury the Plaintiff suffered. The court also stated that the record before it established that the Plaintiff failed to read the warnings.   Moreover, to the extent that the Plaintiff may have allegedly read the warnings, the evidence was that she ignored the warnings.  

According to the Opinion, this case involved the Plaintiff's use of an at-home hair relaxer product manufactured by the defendant.

Among the notable rulings of the court were the following:

-It is the judge who determines whether warnings are adequate and whether the product is defective for an inadequate warning.

-Negligence and strict liability claims overlap in warning claims.

-A manufacturing defect can be established directly or by circumstantial evidence.

-Circumstantial proof of a product malfunction must rule out any abnormal use of secondary causes of the injury.

-Implied warranty claims and manufacturing defect claims are essentially the same.

-To establish an implied warranty, the Plaintiff must prove a product defect.

-Where a Plaintiff does not retain any of the product at issue, that Plaintiff cannot prove a manufacturing defect directly and must, instead, attempt to rely upon circumstantial

-A failure of a Plaintiff to follow warnings is fatal to a malfunction theory case.

-Claims for misrepresentation and the UPTCPL claims can fail for lack of justifiable reliance by the Plaintiff, i.e., these claims may fail where a Plaintiff does not read or rely upon any alleged misrepresentations with respect to the product.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck, of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm and the writer of the excellent Drug and Device Law blog for bringing this case to my attention and providing his above analysis of the same.

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