Fed. R. Evid. 407 encourages manufacturers to make improvements for greater safety. This policy is not implicated where the evidence concerns remedial measures taken by an individual or entity that is not a party to the lawsuit. The admission of remedial measures by a non-party necessarily will not expose that non-party to liability, and therefore will not discourage the non-party from taking the remedial measures in the first place. It is noteworthy that each of the circuits to address this issue has concluded that Fed. R. Evid. 407 does not apply to subsequent remedial measures taken by a non-party.
Appellants, a married couple, filed a products liability suit against appellees, a machine owner and manufacturers. The couple sought to introduce evidence that, shortly after the accident, the owner of the machine partially enclosed the rear wheels, installed a back-up alarm on the rear of the machine, and placed warning signs on the rear of the machine. These measures were taken in order to prevent similar accidents in the future. The district court excluded evidence of these remedial measures under Fed. R. Evid. 407. After trial a jury returned a verdict for a company, and judgment was entered against the couple. The couple appealed from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The court of appeals reversed judgment and remanded.
Does Rule 407 exclude evidence of subsequent remedial measures taken by a non-party?
Because Rule 407 does not apply to evidence of subsequent remedial measures taken by a non-party, it was error for the District Court to exclude evidence of the IA redesign under that rule. In addition, despite the deference accorded to the district court's balancing analysis under Rule 403, there was no support in the record for the district court's concerns that the redesign would confuse or mislead the jury.