Defense Prevails on Every Level in Product Liability Action
Obtained summary judgment on behalf of a large Japanese equipment manufacturer in a catastrophic brain injury case in a product liability action in Pennsylvania. A front-end loader was being operated on a public highway and proceeded to make a left turn while a vehicle operated by a co-defendant was attempting to pass it on the left. The passing vehicle struck the raised bucket of the front-end loader, sheering off the top of the vehicle, causing significant skull shattering and loss of brain tissue to the plaintiff, a front seat passenger in the vehicle, which resulted in profound neurological defects and cognitive and physiologic disabilities. The plaintiff's claim was that the lighting array on the front-end loader vehicle was defectively designed because the "hazard" or "flashing lights" on the vehicle had been incorporated into the amber-colored directional lighting such that when the hazard lights were turned on, the directionals were overridden by the hazard lights. The defense filed a motion for summary judgment contending that the operator of the passing vehicle unequivocally testified that he only observed red lights illuminated, not amber lights and thus, the purported defect could not have been a cause of the accident. The lower court granted summary judgment. The plaintiff's motion for reconsideration was denied and the case was appealed. The defense prevailed at each level of the appeal, as the Superior Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment, and the Supreme Court denied further review.