Pennsylvania remains unsettled – not with the 2012 Presidential election – but with the adoption of the Restatement (Third) of Torts

October 19, 2012

Pennsylvania products liability law remains unsettled and a recent decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals only highlights the confused state of the law and the divergent standards that may be applied in the state and federal courts.  With its decision in Sikkelee, et al. v. Precision Airmotive Corporation, et al., 12-8081, — F.Supp.2d — (3d Cir. Oct. 17, 2012), the Circuit reaffirmed its two prior opinions that federal courts sitting in diversity should look to sections 1 and 2 of the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability as the standard for defining whether a product is defect.   In contrast, the Supreme Court has yet to definitively address the applicability of the Restatement (Third), and most recently noted in Beard v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 41 A.3d 823, 839 (Pa. 2012) that section 402A of the Restatement (Second) is the current law of Pennsylvania.  What this split means in practice is that products cases in Pennsylvania may have markedly different outcomes depending upon whether they proceed in state or federal court, as the federal courts shift away from Pennsylvania’s traditional standard may allow for broader consideration of conduct related evidence.

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