The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County entering a judgment against American Honda Motor Co., Inc. ("Honda") on a jury verdict of $55,325,714 in a personal injury action. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. v. Martinez, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 271 (Pa. Super. Apr. 19, 2017). Plaintiff in Martinez suffered severe injuries in an automobile accident allegedly as a result of (i) a defectively designed seatbelt and (ii) a failure to warn with respect to the subject car's inability to protect passengers in certain types of accidents. In addition to providing a helpful analysis of design-defect claims after Tincher v. Omega Flex, 104 A.3d 328 (Pa. 2014), the Martinez decision provides guidance as to how Pennsylvania courts analyze causation in a failure-to-warn claim.
In Dolby v. Ziegler Tire & Supply Co., 2017 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 791 (Pa. Super. Feb. 28, 2017), a case that proceeded to trial solely on a strict-product-liability, failure-to-warn claim, the Superior Court recently affirmed an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas decision granting defendants' motion for compulsory nonsuit following plaintiff's case in chief. This unpublished decision provides useful guidance regarding the burden of proof in a failure-to-warn case and whether a plaintiff is entitled to a presumption that had an adequate warning been given, it would have been followed.
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.
The "state of flux" continued in the landscape of Pennsylvania products liability law, with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania choosing to apply the Restatement Third of Torts to a Plaintiff's strict liability claims in a matter involving an allegedly defective ladder. This is significant, as almost one year ago the Middle District chose to apply the Restatement Second in a products liability action.  The volatile nature of the applicable substantive law in Pennsylvania product liability actions figures to continue until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court renders an Opinion on the applicable substantive law in Tincher v. Omega Flex, 64 A.2d 626.