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Court holds that Comment k of the Restatement (Second) of Torts does not bar strict liability claim against medical device manufacturer under Pennsylvania law.

October 1, 2017
Smith v. Howmedica Osteonics Corp., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64170 (E.D.Pa. Apr. 27, 2017)

In this product liability action against the manufacturer of a prosthetic implant system, the plaintiffs asserted, among other things, a strict liability claim for manufacturing defect. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the plaintiffs’ claims were barred under Pennsylvania law by Comment k of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. After reviewing a split in authority among federal district courts in applying Pennsylvania law, the district court denied the defendant’s motion. In so doing, the court relied upon the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. Specifically, the court quoted Tincher for the proposition that in Pennsylvania, “[n]o product is expressly exempt from strict liability and, as a result, the presumption is that strict liability may be available with respect to any product.” The district court further noted that, although Tincher recognized limited exceptions to this presumption—barring strict liability for design defect and failure-to-warn claims against manufacturers of unavoidably unsafe products under Comment k—it did not include “a categorical bar to all strict liability claims against medical device manufacturers.” The court concluded that this omission “was neither inadvertent, nor a stylistic choice.” Rather, the omission served as a strong indication that under Pennsylvania law, Comment k does not bar strict liability manufacturing defect claims against medical device manufacturers. The district court predicted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would so hold and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.


Case Law Alerts, 4th Quarter, October 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2017 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.

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