A claim for injury to a person or damage to property as a result of a defect in a product can be based on negligence (i.e., lack of reasonable care in the manufacture, assembly or inspection of a product, or inadequate instructions for its use or warnings concerning the limitations of a product) or the breach of an expressed or implied warranty (i.e., breach of a warranty that the product was fit for a specific use or purpose or of the implied warranty of fitness for its ordinary purposes). However, the cornerstone of the Pennsylvania law of product liability is Section 402A of the Restatement 2nd of Torts dealing with strict liability. Under that doctrine, a person or entity in the business of supplying a product is liable for harm to a person or property caused by a defect in the product, or in the instructions or warnings that should accompany it.
Supplying a product includes both selling or leasing, which makes manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers or lessors, in the business of supplying products for use or consumption by the public, potentially liable. A defect in a product may be found when the product left the supplier's control lacking any element necessary to make it safe for its intended use or possessing any feature that rendered it unsafe for the intended use. The term intended use encompasses not only the obvious purpose of the product, but also a use or even misuse of a product which would be reasonably foreseeable to the supplier.
Similarly, alteration of a product after its sale may not be a valid defense, if the alteration would have been reasonably foreseeable to the supplier or if the injury could have been sustained even if the alteration had not occurred. Defective conditions, which may create strict liability, include not only defects in the design or manufacture of a product, but also the absence of warnings or instructions necessary to warn the user or consumer of the possible risks and inherent limitations of the product in a form that will reach the ultimate user or consumer.Product Liability Information
Negligence claims arising from injuries caused by a product necessarily focus on the reasonableness of the supplier's conduct, but the focus of the Pennsylvania law of Strict Liability is on the safety of the product rather than on conduct. However, the doctrine of assumption of the risk still applies in a strict product liability claim and can preclude recovery by the injured person, where it can be shown that he or she voluntarily chose to encounter a known risk by manifesting, under the circumstances, a conscious appreciation of and willingness to accept the danger posed by the defect in the product.
A two-year statute of limitations applies to claims for bodily injury or damage to property, whether the claim is based on negligence or strict product liability, requiring a suit to be filed within two years of the date of harm. However, a four-year statute of limitations may apply to claims for bodily injury or property damage when based on a breach of expressed or implied warranty. In addition, when a product has become a fixture to real estate, such as an elevator, escalator or conveyor belt, there is a twelve-year statute of repose that eliminates the injured person's right of recovery unless an action is commenced within twelve years of the date the product was incorporated into the real estate as a fixture. While that twelve-year statute of repose applies to those involved in the installation of the product as a fixture or in planning its installation, Pennsylvania courts have found that it does not apply to manufacturers of a product, if they are not involved in its installation.
Claims arising from a defect in a product are rarely easily resolved and are normally difficult and expensive to pursue—both in terms of the time required and monetary costs resulting from the typical need for involvement of an expert or experts. As a result, and as a practical matter, claims arising from a product defect are normally not pursued unless a serious injury to person or property has resulted. Note that the law of strict product liability does not apply to a claim for damages to the defective product itself, though such claims may be pursued if covered by a warranty.We can help.
If you have been injured by a defective product or as a result of inadequate instructions or warnings concerning the product, contact us for a free consultation. Call NEEDLE LAW at (570) 344-1266 today. At Needle Law, we are experienced product liability attorneys serving Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties and look forward to assisting you.