Pennsylvania’s product liability law may change drastically in favor of big business
Pennsylvania’s product liability law to protect people from defective products may change drastically in favor of big business and insurance companies
Big business and insurance companies want to limit or eliminate an individual’s right to protection from defective products. For almost fifty years, Pennsylvania products liability law required that a product designer or manufacturer make products that were safe for its intended uses. The burden was put on the product designer and manufacturer to produce a safe product. The burden was on the business because Pennsylvania wanted the products used within its borders to have been carefully made and tested so that dangers could be eliminated or minimized before it reached the hands of the intended user. If the product was not safe for its intended uses and an individual was harmed as a result, then the product designer and manufacturer were responsible for the harm. For almost fifty years, this was a straight forward analysis. The analysis focused on the product itself and not the actions of the various parties as long as the product was used as intended.
Last year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to listen to argument as to whether Pennsylvania should adopt a legal standard that would make it harder for individuals to prove a products liability claim against product designers and manufacturers. The Court heard oral argument on October 15, 2013, and we are waiting on the Court’s decision. Given the current justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the fact that they agreed to hear a challenge to a longstanding legal doctrine, leads many to believe that a change is imminent.
A change to the law would make it more expensive for injured people and their legal counsel to bring a claim against a product designer or manufacturer. This will ultimately prevent some cases with merit from being pursued in the first place. The ones that do get brought will be vulnerable to defenses that were not previously allowed. For instance, industry standards that are created by the same companies that are producing the defective products could be introduced at trial as evidence that the products meet some low level of safety.
Pennsylvanians should be on the look-out for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. Once the decision is posted, Rankin & Gregory will let you know how the case could specifically effect you and your loved ones.