How much has the recent Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., Opinion changed the landscape of products liability law in Pennsylvania? So far, this opinion has resulted in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upholding the dismissal of a manufacturer of a product involved in a serious injury even though the product was deemed defective by the plaintiff's experts. This decision was made in the recent Urbieta v. All-American Hose, LLC, et. al., case. 2019 WL 3385192 (Pa. Super. 2019).
In a strict product liability claim, compliance with government regulations and industry standards can be powerful evidence for the defense. Such evidence traditionally has been inadmissible under Pennsylvania law based on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Lewis v. Coffing Hoist Div., Duff-Norton Co., Inc., 528 A.2d 590 (Pa. 1987). The Court's decision in Tincher v. Omega Flex, 104 A.3d 328 (Pa. 2014), however, raises questions about the continued viability of Lewis and provides defendants with a compelling argument that this type of evidence should be admissible. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania courts have been slow to reach that conclusion, and recent Superior Court decisions cast doubt on the admissibility of such evidence, which at best remains an open issue.
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The current state of Pennsylvania products liability law remains muddled as we continue to await the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling in Tincher v. Omega Flex. As previously discussed, the Court in Tincher is determining whether the Restatement Second of Torts or Restatement Third of Torts will be the substantive law in Pennsylvania. In the interim, the substantive law in federal courts in Pennsylvania depends upon the judge. Recently, Judge Mannion of the Federal Middle District of Pennsylvania applied the Restatement Third in a products liability action involving the alleged failure of a nylon strap and subsequent workplace injury.