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Tincher v. Omega Flex

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

October 15, 2013, Argued; November 19, 2014, Decided

No. 17 MAP 2013

Opinion

 [**335]  [*308]   MR. CHIEF JUSTICE CASTILLE

Omega Flex, Inc., appeals the decision of the Superior Court to affirm the judgment on the verdict entered in favor of Terrence D. Tincher and Judith R. Tincher (the "Tinchers") by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division. We reverse the Superior Court decision in part, upon reasoning different from that articulated by the courts below, and we remand to the trial court for further action upon Omega Flex's post-trial motions, consistent with the principles elucidated in this Opinion. We hold that:

1. This Court's decision in Azzarello v. Black Brothers Company, 480 Pa. 547, 391 A.2d 1020 (Pa. 1978) is hereby overruled.

 [*309]  2. Having considered the common law of Pennsylvania, [***2]  the provenance of the strict product liability cause of action, the interests and the policy which the strict liability cause of action vindicates, and alternative standards of proof utilized in sister jurisdictions, we conclude that a plaintiff pursuing a cause upon a theory of strict liability in tort must prove that the product is in a "defective condition." The plaintiff may prove defective condition by showing either that (1) the danger is unknowable and unacceptable to the average or ordinary consumer, or that (2) a reasonable person would conclude that the probability and seriousness of harm caused by the product outweigh the burden or costs of taking precautions. The burden of production and persuasion is by a preponderance of the evidence.

3. Whether a product is in a defective condition is a question of fact ordinarily submitted for determination to the finder of fact; the question is removed from the jury's consideration only where it is clear that reasonable minds could not differ on the issue. Thus, the trial court is relegated to its traditional role of determining issues of law, e.g., on dispositive motions, and articulating the law for the jury, premised upon the governing [***3]  legal theory, the facts adduced at trial and relevant advocacy by the parties.

4. To the extent relevant here, we decline to adopt the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability §§ 1 et seq., albeit appreciation of certain principles contained in that Restatement has certainly informed our consideration of the proper approach to strict liability in Pennsylvania in the post- Azzarello paradigm.

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628 Pa. 296 *; 104 A.3d 328 **; 2014 Pa. LEXIS 3031 ***

TERRENCE D. TINCHER AND JUDITH R. TINCHER, Appellees v. OMEGA FLEX, INC., Appellant

Subsequent History: Motion for new trial granted by, Decision reached on appeal by, Remanded by Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 2018 PA Super 33, 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 117 (Pa. Super. Ct., Feb. 16, 2018)

Prior History:  [***1] Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, Dated September 25, 2012, at No. 1472 EDA 2011, Affirming the Judgment of the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, Dated June 1, 2011, at No. 2008-00974-CA. Nagle, Ronald C., Senior Judge, Trial Court Judge. Musmanno, John L., Judge, Mundy, Sallie, Judge, Fitzgerald, James J., III, Justice, Intermediate Court Judges.

Tincher v. Omega Flex, 60 A.3d 860, 2012 Pa. Super. LEXIS 4427 (Pa. Super. Ct., Sept. 25, 2012)

Disposition: Jurisdiction relinquished.

CORE TERMS

Restatement, strict liability, manufacturer, cases, trial court, seller, articulated, consumer, products, risk-utility, unreasonable danger, principles, premised, common law, cause of action, supplier, courts, burden of proof, user, defective product, design defect, safe, parties, foreseeable, decisional law, defective condition, implicated, joined, consumer expectation, product liability

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, General Overview, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Judgment Notwithstanding Verdict, Governments, Courts, Common Law, Judicial Precedent, Torts, Products Liability, Theories of Liability, Strict Liability, Negligence, Elements, Breach of Duty, Standards of Care, Reasonable Care, Types of Defects, Design Defects, Province of Court & Jury, Requests for Instructions, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Preponderance of Evidence