UPS Mechanic Delivered Half-Victory on Strict Products Claim (PA)
In ELGERT v. SIEMENS INDUSTRY, INC., Dist…. Industries, plaintiff, a mechanic employed by the United Parcel Service (“UPS”), sustained severe injuries while repairing a conveyor at a UPS facility and sued the manufacturers, producers, and distributors of the machine as a result. In his complaint, plaintiff raised two claims: (1) strict liability under §402A of the Restatement of Torts and (2) negligence.
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the strict liability claim pursuant to Tincher v. Omega Flex, the foremost products liability decision that establishes the test for determining whether a product is defective and when a supplier of the product is strictly liable for injuries caused by the apparent defect. Under Tincher, to establish a prima facie warning, design or manufacturing defect claim under Pennsylvania law, a plaintiff must show (1) the product was defective, (2) the defect existed when the product left the seller’s hands, and (3) that the defect caused the plaintiff’s harm. In this case, the question to be answered is whether the defective design of the conveyor caused plaintiff’s injury. A plaintiff may prove a defective condition by using either the consumer expectations standard or the risk-utility standard; in this case plaintiff relied on the risk-utility standard. The court determined that material factual issues precluded summary judgment on risk/utility theory analysis as such questions should be reserved for a jury, not the court, and denied this part of defendants’ motion.
Defendants also sought summary judgment on plaintiff’s negligence claim. Plaintiff claimed defendants were liable for negligence in failing to warn him of the dangers of the conveyor. Whether a warning is adequate is a question of law to be decided by the court, not a jury, and in this case, defendants met their duty to provide a reasonable and adequate warning of the inherent dangers of the conveyor. Furthermore, plaintiff admitted he never read the product manual, therefore summary judgment on this claim was granted as no different warning could have been useful to him.
Thanks to Chelsea Rendelman for her contribution to this post. Please email Vincent F. Terrasi with any questions.