PRODUCTS LIABILITY-CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE

December 8th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Products Liability

Cote v. Schnell Indus., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 203690 (November 8, 2022) (Brann, J.)  This is a transloader device.  The case deals with motions filed by both sides.  Most of the motions were decided in favor of the plaintiff.  Defendant raised contributory negligence, assumption of the risk, and misuse by the plaintiff.  The court granted most of the plaintiff’s motions.  Defendant could not offer evidence of plaintiff’s alleged own lack of due diligence to negate the plaintiff’s attempt to establish if the product was defective.  In a products liability case, assumption of the risk is no longer available ordinarily.  The manufacturer could not establish that the accident would have occurred in spite of the curing of the transloader’s defect.  In order to prove reckless conduct or misuse, the manufacturer would have had to show that the plaintiff would have been injured in spite of the curing of any alleged defect, or was so extraordinary and unforeseeable as to constitute a superseding cause.  The court interpreted Pennsylvania law as saying that defendant could not advance reckless conduct and product misuse as affirmative defenses in a products liability action. Defendant manufacturer could not show that the accident was caused solely by the settled defendant’s conduct, unrelated in any way to the product.  Therefore, the plaintiff’s motion to preclude was granted.  The manufacturer will not be permitted to introduce evidence of settled defendant’s negligent conduct, or to argue that negligence excuses the transloader’s alleged defects or necessitates a reduced recovery.  OSHA regulations will not be barred simply because the plaintiff disagrees with them.  That is what cross-examination is for.  The court would not deny the right of experts to testify and they are subject to cross-examination.  Most of the other motions in limine were denied with respect to experts.  To defendant manufacturer, this case is about apportioning the blame.  The jury will have to determine whether the accident that nearly severed plaintiff’s hand was caused by defects with the transloader or instead by plaintiffs and his colleagues in misuse of the machine or the alleged negligence of the settled defendants.  Plaintiff is correct that negligence does not come in because manufacturer cannot establish that the transloader’s alleged defects played no role in the accident.  Manufacturer will not be permitted to introduce evidence of or present arguments that plaintiff or any third party’s conduct contributed to the accident.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]

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