PRODUCT LIABILITY & DEFECTS

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PRODUCT LIABILITY & DEFECTS
PRODUCT LIABILITY & DEFECTS
Whether you are using a household product or heavy machinery or industrial machinery, you should be able to count on the fact that the product has been safely designed and built as it was designed.

We have successfully handled cases involving injury or death caused by alleged defects such as tractors, off road vehicles, forklifts, cranes, just to name a few.

Proving such cases can be very difficult and expensive. Being able to explain what happened and why through pictures, models, computer animations and/or expert testimony is often critical. 

The Law

Pennsylvania law of strict product liability is based on Sec. 402A of the Restatement (2d) of Torts. Under the Pennsylvania law of strict product liability, a manufacturer/supplier of a product is the guarantor of its safety. The manufacturer/supplier is liable for any harm that a defect in its product was a substantial factor in bringing it about. A defect may be found where the product left the manufacturer and supplier’s control lacking any element necessary to make it safe for its intended use or possessing any feature that rendered it unsafe for the intended use. Intended use includes any reasonably foreseeable use or misuse of a produc


Manufacturer and supplier of products from whom the law of strict product liability applies includes anyone in the chain of distribution engaged in the business of supplying products for use or consumption by the public, whether manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers or lessors. A defective condition, creating strict liability, is not limited to defects in the design or manufacture of a product. The manufacturer and supplier of a product must also provide such warnings and instructions as are necessary to inform the user or consumer of the possible risks and inherent limitations of the product in a form that will reach the ultimate consumer. The absence of such warnings or instructions may be considered a defect. The duty to provide a “non-defective” product is non-delegable.

The law of strict product liability concentrates on the safety of the product rather than on the reasonableness of the manufacturer and supplier’s conduct. As a result, the manufacturer and supplier of a product may be liable for harm caused by its defective product even where it has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of its product. Factors which focus on the reasonableness of conduct or otherwise inject negligence principles, such as industry custom, industry standards or government regulatory or licensing standards (unless found to preempt state law) and the negligence or conduct of the injured person are irrelevant and inadmissible in a claim based on strict product liability. However, assumption of the risk remains a complete defense, where it can be shown that the injured person voluntarily chose to encounter a known risk by manifesting, under the circumstances, a conscious appreciation of and willingness to accept the danger posed by the defect in the product.

The manufacturer and supplier of a product may also defend a strict product liability claim on the basis that there was a substantial change in the product after it left its control. However, that defense is not available if the alteration would have been reasonably foreseeable to the manufacturer and supplier of the product or if the injury could have been sustained even if the alteration had not occurred.

A claim under the law of strict product liability may be made for property damage or personal injury resulting from the defect. However, the law of strict product liability does not apply to claim for damages to the defective product itself. A strict product liability claim is subject to a two year statute of limitations, requiring suit to be filed within two years of the date of harm. Note that a similar claim for breach of express or implied warranty has been found to have a four year statute of limitations. There is also a 12 year statute of repose that applies to products that have become fixtures, i.e., elevators, escalators, conveyor belts and the like. The statute of repose eliminates the right of recovery unless an action is commenced within 12 years of the date of incorporation into the real estate as a fixture. Note that the statute of repose has been found not to apply to manufacturers, but only those involved in planning or installation of the product as a fixture.

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