The Legal Intelligencer, the leading legal publication in Pennsylvania, on March 1, 2018, published an article entitled “Pa. Superior Court Adds to Debate Over Jury Instructions in Wake of ‘Tincher’.” Cliff Rieders has been instrumental in this debate. Rieders wrote the Amicus brief in the underlying case of Tincher v. Omega Flex I, which was ultimately adopted by the court. The court’s formulation of products liability law in Pennsylvania gives the jury the province of weighing the risk benefit of suggested alternative designs and the jury may now consider consumer expectations. Part of the equation is whether the product lacks any element necessary to make it safe. As in prior law, the manufacturer is still a guarantor, although not an insurer of the safety of the product.
The Legal Intelligencer article noted that on remand from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Superior Court in Tincher II determined that since the chart was wrong that the jury was given, which led to the Tincher I appeal, there should be a retrial. At the retrial, the jury will be able to consider risk reward analysis and consumer expectation, although it did have that information in its prior deliberations.
Rieders has been frequently interviewed on the subject of products liability law in Pennsylvania. The attorney is a life member of the American Law Institute. The American Law Institute originally considered changing products liability laws nationwide in its Enterprise Theory of Liability. After Rieders worked hard to point out that the study was financed by insurance companies in the tort reform movement, the project was shelved. This led to the Restatement (Third). Rieders was on the Consultative Group of the Restatement (Third) Products Liability, and was instrumental in the Subcommittee Note of the American Law Institute specifically addressing Pennsylvania law and stating that Pennsylvania law was in conformity with national products liability law.
Ever since the American Law Institute adopted the Restatement (Third) Products Liability, many states, including Pennsylvania, have tried to bring negligence concepts into products liability law. Rieders has assiduously fought against that, and has served as Amicus Curiae counsel in a number of cases that have gone to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Rieders has argued that the emphasis should stay on the safety of the product and not the subjective intent of the manufacturer. “Safety comes first,” said Rieders.
Cliff Rieders is the go-to attorney for many products liability questions in our courts, both at the trial and appellate levels.