Products Liability and Catastrophic Injury

The term "product liability" generally refers to the liability of a manufacturer, processor, or non-manufacturing seller for injury to the person of property of a buyer or third party caused by a product which has been sold. Generally speaking, there are three different types of product liability claims; manufacturing defects, design defects, and failure to warn claims. In Pennsylvania, a plaintiff can bring a cause of action against the manufacturer, seller, or distributor of a product under strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty claims. The attorneys at Houston Harbaugh have significant experience defending manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of a variety of products from the time of the initial claim through trial in state and federal courts.

The landscape of products liability law in Pennsylvania is uncertain. We had a long time split of authority with regard to whether the Restatement Second of Torts of the Restatement Third of Torts should be applied substantively in Pennsylvania products liability cases. This rift existed for quite some time, and the split was between between the state and federal courts, and in some respects between the several federal courts and judges. Over the last several years, the United States Federal Courts for the Eastern, Middle, and Western District have issued opinions which favor alternatively both the Restatement Second and the Restatement Third in products liability cases. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, has held, so far, that the Restatement Second is to be applied in all strict products liability cases in Pennsylvania. They have rejected the Restatement Third and in the now well-known "Tincher" case, the court has essentially rewritten some aspects of strict liability law, and declared the Restatement Second to still be the law.

In this climate of uncertainty, our attorneys have been trial counsel for product manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, and have frequently acted as local counsel to not only guide clients through the procedural complexities of Pennsylvania practice, but to also advise and guide clients through the unpredictable substantive areas of the law which have either changed, are changing, or are up for interpretation.

The principals of the firm have experience in handling significant pharmaceutical, products liability and tort claims, including matters involving allegations of professional negligence, strict products liability, breach of warranty, failure to warn, drug and device, compounding pharmacy liability and personal injury. From our office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, our lawyers serve clients primarily in Pennsylvania, but also in other jurisdictions on a special admission basis.

Heavy Equipment and Industrial Machinery

The attorneys at Houston Harbaugh in Pittsburgh have significant experience in handling products liability actions involving the defense of manufacturers, suppliers,

and distributors in actions involving claims of manufacturing or design defects resulting in serious personal injuries in state and federal court.

Heavy equipment and industrial machinery are often designed to do specific things or perform certain functions. Often times allegations of manufacturing or design defects are cases of user error, as in many cases the machinery or equipment involved is manned by both skilled and unskilled laborers. Our attorneys have experience and knowledge of applicable OSHA regulations that may have an impact on these claims, as well as the sophisticated defenses required to properly defend a claim that was the result of user error.

Houston Harbaugh attorneys understand and have experience working with clients who have diligently applied safe engineering principles to ensure that they account for how their machines may be used, and have properly given warnings and instructions to that the end user can use the machinery properly and safely.

The firm's experience in products liability actions involving heavy equipment and machinery includes the following matters:

  • Representing designer/manufacturer of electric controls system for forge against claims of improper design, failure to include adequate safety devices and failure to provide adequate warnings, resulting in amputation.
  • Defending major auto manufacturers in sudden acceleration products liability case.
  • Defending seller of heavy equipment in a products liability case involving serious brain injury from forklift accident.
  • Defense of manufacturer of pasta-making equipment in products liability case involving a partial amputation.
  • The defense of a supplier of welding wire in products liability action seeking consequential damages allegedly incurred because of replacement of piping system due to failure of welding wire to meet specifications.