Pennsylvania Product Liability Laws
The following are important aspects of Pennsylvania product liability laws:
- Time Limits — If you have been injured by a product, you have two years from the date of injury to file a claim for personal injury, wrongful death, and personal property damage or destruction.
There are several exceptions to the two-year limit. One is for “fraudulent concealment” which kept the defect from being discovered at the time of injury. In this case, the statute of limitations would begin at the point where a reasonable person would know that the device’s defect caused their injury. Another is for “statue of repose,” which allows 12 years to bring a claim relating to defective real estate improvements that injure you or damage your property.
- Comparative Fault — Pennsylvania has a “modified comparative fault standard,” which states that the injured party cannot be found to be more than 50% responsible for the resulting injury and that recovery is allowed even if the party was equally responsible for the outcome. There is considerable debate whether this applies in a strict liability case.
- Damage Limits — There is no cap on damages in Pennsylvania.
Three Categories of Product Liability
Generally, product liability cases may be placed into three categories: manufacturing defect, design defect, and failure to warn.
- Manufacturing defect – occurs when the product does not conform to the designer’s or manufacturer’s own specifications. Manufacturing defects are flaws or defects that occur in the manufacturing process and may involve poor quality materials or shoddy workmanship. These cases are the easiest to prove, since the manufacturer’s own design standards can be used to show that the product was defective.
- Design Defects – occur when the design is flawed and the product is unreasonably dangerous even though it is carefully manufactured and meets the manufacturer’s own design standards. In these types of claims, the plaintiff may need to present evidence that there was a cost-effective alternative design that would have prevented the injury.
- Failure to Warn – arises when a product has a non-obvious danger that could be avoided through adequate warnings to the user.
Holding a Manufacturer Accountable
A negligence claim against a manufacturer can be brought because the manufacturer has a duty to carefully design, produce or market its products. A negligence claim could be brought against a seller if it knew or had reason to know that the product was defective or dangerous and sold it anyway.
However, proving why a product caused injury, that it was because the manufacturer did something wrong, or proving that the seller knew the product was defective, can be difficult. The principle of “strict liability” makes it easier for an injured person to recover damages.
Under strict liability, the plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant was negligent or had intent to injure. It must only be shown that the product was defective, that the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous, and that the defect caused injury.
However, defendants may still raise the defense that the plaintiff substantially altered the product after it left the defendant’s control, or that the product was misused.
A strict liability or negligence claim or both may be brought against a manufacturer or retailer. Sometimes even a warranty claim may be appropriate. The major case on this subject, Tincher v. Omega Flex, is one in which Cliff Rieders was instrumentally involved since he wrote the amicus curiae, friend of the court, brief.
A claim against the manufacturer can be brought because of violation of the risk utility analysis or a failure to comply with consumer expectations. These are complex matters that the courts are still sorting out.
The principles of “strict liability” may make it easier for an injured person to recover damages, but not always. In a strict liability case, it must be shown that the product was defective and the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous. Of course, there must also be harm.
Defendants may still raise the defense that plaintiffs substantially altered the product after it left the defendant’s control or the product was misused. There is also a form of assumption of the risk which may apply under certain circumstances.
Cliff Rieders has not only written the amicus curiae brief in Tincher v. Omega Flex, the governing case on the subject in Pennsylvania, but also in many other important and crucial strict liability cases. Cliff is looked at as one of the leading experts in the field of products liability. Cliff served on the American Law Institute Consultative Committee with respect to the Restatement (Third), Products Liability. The American Law Institute proposes rules that are used in many states, sometimes all states in the union. Being a member of the American Law Institute is a great privilege, and Cliff Rieders is a life member.
Trust Our Products Liability Attorneys
Theoretically, strict liability is allowed because manufacturers and sellers are better able to absorb the economic cost of the injury and can pass those costs on to the consumer through higher prices. It also provides an incentive to design safer products.
However, critics of strict liability argue that it is unfair to impose liability without fault and that the higher cost of doing business hurts consumers. Therefore, there is uncertainty regarding the state of products liability law. Because of this uncertainty, and because product cases involve many technical details and usually require testimony of experts, it is important that anyone injured by a defective product consult an experienced product liability lawyer.
Contact Us For Help
If you or a loved one has suffered damages from a defective product, you may be able to make a claim against the manufacturer or other responsible parties and receive compensation for your losses, but it is essential that you have experienced attorneys and legal staff on your side.
Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.
Contact us today by calling or by using our online contact form.