Friday, January 13, 2023

Federal Court Rules that Contributory Negligence Defense Cannot Be Utilized in a Strict Liability Case

In the Cote v. Schnell Industries, No. 4:18-CV-01440 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 8, 2022 Brann, J.), the court granted in part and denied in part Motions In Limine filed by both the Plaintiff and the Defendant in this strict products liability claim.

More specifically, the court excluded evidence of the Plaintiff’s contributory negligence, recklessness, or assumption of the risk where the product manufacturer Defendant could not show that the alleged product defects contributed in no way whatsoever to the accident and that the victim’s actions were therefore causally connected.

In this regard, Judge Brann noted that a products liability Defendant is not permitted to use contributory negligence concepts to excuse a product's defect or reduce recovery by comparing the fault of the parties in a strict liability case.  The exception is where the accident at issue was solely caused by a Plaintiff's negligence, which was not the case here.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Court's Order can be viewed HERE.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Dec. 13, 2022).

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