Sullivan v. Werner Co., 2021 PA Super 66 (Apr. 15, 2021)

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania weighs whether evidence of industry standards in a design defect case is permissible post-Tincher.

A carpenter fell through a scaffold while performing carpentry work at a Bucks County elementary school and sustained permanent back injuries. He sued the scaffold manufacturer and seller, alleging, inter alia, design defect and was awarded a $2.5 million verdict at trial.

On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s rulings to preclude industry standards evidence (as well as two other issues, which are not addressed in this case law alert). Despite the manufacturer’s argument to the contrary, the Superior Court held that the decision in Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 628 Pa. 296, 104 A.3d 328 (Pa. 2014), did not change long-standing Pennsylvania case law that evidence of government and industry standards is inadmissible in strict product liability cases; evidence of government and industry standards sound in negligence, not strict liability, as it goes to the character of the manufacturer’s conduct, not the product’s safety.

The court does note, however, that “the Supreme Court may allow industry and governmental standards in a manner suggested by the Restatement (Third) in the future, [but] until it does, Tincher neither explicitly nor implicitly overrules the exclusion of industry standards in a products liability case,” such that the trial court’s decision to preclude such evidence was not manifestly unreasonable.


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2021 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 © 2021 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.