Pennsylvania Supreme Court Adopts New Standards for Strict Liability Claims, by Duane Morris LLP & Affiliates®
While the Tincher decision clarifies some issues regarding strict liability cases, there are many issues left to be determined by future case law.
On November 19, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. (No. 17 MAP 2013), in which it addresses the proper standard under Pennsylvania law for strict liability claims relating to allegedly defective products. Although the court declined to adopt the Restatement (Third) of Torts, it overruled its prior holding in Azzarello v. Black Brothers Company, 391 A.2d 1020 (Pa. 1978), which created roadblocks to the introduction by defendants of the reasonableness of their actions in designing products.
Strict liability for defective products developed from the social policy determination that the cost of injuries resulting from defective products should be borne by the manufacturers of the products rather than by the injured persons. For almost 50 years, strict liability under Pennsylvania law has been governed by Section 402A of the Second Restatement of Torts, which provides that ‘one who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability [for the harm caused] . . . .’
The term ‘unreasonably dangerous’ naturally involves a balancing between what is reasonable and what is not, which is similar to the fault-based notions encompassed by negligence claims. However, in Azzarello, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court drew a bright line between strict liability and negligence causes of action. . . .