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Pa Supreme Court's Tincher Opinion and Its Impact on Product Liability Cases

Recently the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided an important case in the area of product liability law.  The opinion in Tincher v. Omega Flex has clarified the Pennsylvania law in the product liability arena.  Product liability cases are those in which a consumer or user of a product is injured by the product.  The injured person usually brings a claim against the product's manufacturer claiming that the product which caused the injury was defective.  Product liability cases cover a wide range of products from drugs, automobiles, tools, to children's toys.  

In the Tincher case the Court was asked how an injured consumer is required to prove that a product was defective in its design.  The law had been unsettled prior to this decision depending on which court the claim was brought in, and as a result thereof the standard of proof the plaintiff needed to meet varied.  As the law stood prior to the Tincher decision, to determine if a product was defective the court would weigh the risks of the danger of the product against the usefulness or utility of the product.  The jury would then have the role of determining if the manufacturer of the product delivered a defective product to the consumer.  

The Court's decision in Tincher will still require the injured consumer to prove that manufacturer placed a defective product in to the marketplace.  The opinion given by the Supreme Court justices stated that the plaintiff may do this by either using the consumer expectation standard (that the danger is unknowable/unacceptable by the average, ordinary consumer) or by use of the risk vs. utility/usefulness analysis (a reasonable person would consider the probability and seriousness of harm to outweigh the burden/costs of precautions).  The question of whether the product was in a defective condition remains a question for the jury to determine, unless the issue is so clear that no reasonable minds could differ.  

The full impact of this decision will be determined as time goes by and new cases interpret the decision.  If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product please contact our office for a free cases evaluation.

"'Tincher' Should Simplify Products Liability Cases", by Clifford A. Reiders, The Legal Intelligencer

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