CURRENT_ISSUES_IN_PRODUCT_LIABILITY_CASES.DOC

CURRENT_ISSUES_IN_PRODUCT_LIABILITY_CASES.DOC - CURRENT...

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CURRENT ISSUES IN PRODUCT LIABILITY CASES WILLIAM E. GERICKE, ESQUIRE COZEN AND O’CONNOR 1900 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19103 (215) 665-2000 [email protected] Atlanta, GA Charlotte, NC Cherry Hill, NJ Chicago, IL Columbia, SC Dallas, TX Los Angeles, CA New York, NY Newark, NJ Philadelphia, PA San Diego, CA Seattle, WA W. Conshohocken, PA Westmont, NJ The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any current or former client of Cozen and O'Connor. These materials are not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act or rely on this material without seeking specific legal advice on matters which concern them. Copyright (c) 1998 Cozen and O'Connor ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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INTRODUCTION Today's Courts have fashioned a full body of procedural, evidentiary and substantive law to deal with products liability cases. The American Law Institute is fast approaching the completion of a new and comprehensive Restatement limited solely to Products Liability. The new Restatement will supposedly provide more guidance in this area of the law than the current 402A. Until that Restatement is completed and adopted by the Courts, Products Liability Law will continue to be pieced together from judicial precedents. The following Update will touch on some areas of Products Liability Law and discuss recent decisions which have affected those specific areas. It should be kept in mind that Products Liability Law is always changing and one must constantly be aware of how a seemingly established doctrine can change overnight with a key court decision. I. MALFUNCTION THEORY A. Standard for a Malfunction Theory We are all well acquainted with the Malfunction Theory and its standard. A product can be shown to be defective if it malfunctions under normal use and if other causes for the malfunction are ruled out. A malfunction, unlike a design defect or warnings defect, can be established by circumstantial evidence. As stated in Dansak v. Cameron Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Inc. , 703 A.2d 489 (Pa. Super 1997): The plaintiff, even without expert testimony articulating the specific defect, may be able to convince a jury that the product was defective when it left the seller's hands by producing circumstantial evidence. Such circumstantial evidence includes (1) the malfunction of the product; (2) expert testimony as to a variety of possible causes; (3) the timing of the malfunction in relation to when the plaintiff first obtained the product; (4) similar accidents involving the same product; (5) elimination of other possible causes of the accident, including misuse and/or
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abuse of the product; and (6) proof tending to establish that the accident does not occur absent a manufacturing defect. Id . at 496. When proceeding on a malfunction theory, the plaintiff may present a case-in-chief evidencing the occurrence of a malfunction, and eliminating abnormal use or reasonable, secondary causes for the malfunction. Long v. Yingling , 700 A.2d 508 (Pa. Super. 1997). From
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  • Spring '17
  • Rosen
  • Supreme Court of the United States, Appellate court, Product liability

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