Monday, May 24, 2021

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Preclusion of Evidence of Industry Standards in Products Liability Case



In the products liability case of Sullivan v. Werner Company, No. 3086-EDA-2019 (Pa. Super. April 15, 2021 Stabile, J., King, J., and Pellegrini, J.) (Op. by Pellegrini, J.), the court upheld a trial court’s decision to preclude evidence of industry standards and the Plaintiff’s negligence.

According to the Opinion, this case involved a strict products liability action that was filed by the Plaintiff after he fell through his scaffold made by Werner Company and sold by Lowe’s companies. A jury determined that a design defect caused the accident and awarded the Plaintiff $2.5 million dollars.

On appeal, the manufacturer asserted that the trial court erred in precluding industry standards evidence. The manufacturer also asserted that it should have been allowed to argue that the Plaintiff’s negligence was the sole cause of the accident. The manufacturer additionally challenged the Plaintiff’s mechanical engineering expert’s opinion as lacking proper factual foundation.

On appeal, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict.

On the industry standards evidence, the Plaintiff filed a Pre-Trial Motion In Limine to bar the admission of any government of industry standard evidence at trial under an argument that the Pennsylvania courts have generally barred such evidence in strict liability cases and that that rule of law was unaffected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 104 A.3d 328 (Pa. 2014), which erased the distinction between negligence and strict liability and products liability cases.

The Defendant manufacturer asserted the opposite view, arguing that, after Tincher, governmental and industry standards evidence was admissible in strict liability cases.

The trial court agreed with the Plaintiff’s position and granted the Motion In Limine.  As noted, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed on appeal.

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

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

No comments:

Post a Comment