LBK Attorneys Discuss Recent Victory for Client in Products Liability Case


In a recent article in The Legal Intelligencer, LBK founder Jeffrey Laffey and partner Stewart Ryan discussed the implications of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to affirm their client’s $2.5 million award in the case Sullivan v. Werner Company. The Court determined that defendants cannot introduce evidence showing their product complies with industry standards, finding that their 2014 ruling in Tincher v. Omega Flex did not change the way courts must handle such evidence.

Laffey and Ryan’s client, Michael Sullivan, fell when the platform he was standing upon collapsed, and he alleged that the scaffold was negligently designed. The defendants in the case, Werner Co. and Lowe’s Cos., sought to bring in evidence that the product met federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and American National Standards Institute standards.

Although Tincher had left some doubt as to the admissibility of a manufacturer’s alleged compliance with standard industry protocols, the Court’s majority decision affirms that this evidence should be barred.

“Everybody’s imagination ran amok with what Tincher meant for the past nine years,” Laffey said. “It solidifies Pennsylvania as a Second Restatement state, which Tincher expressly stated that it was.”

Under the American Law Institute’s Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 402A, “one who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer” may be held strictly liable to the injured party, even if “the seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of the product.”

Tincher established that there are two tests—risk-utility and consumer expectation—under which plaintiffs can now present product liability cases, but there is still a severe separation between negligence and strict liability. Ryan noted that this appeal offers insight into the justices’ view of the post-Tincher landscape, saying, “They’re seeing the reality that the only thing Tincher may do here is change the lens by which juries can determine product liability. All of these various sub issues the defense bar is saying no longer matter. The court said we’re still a Restatement (Second) state.”

Read the full article here: Industry Standards Evidence Inadmissible Following ‘Tincher,’ Pa. Supreme Court Says (subscription required)