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Plaintiff's Comparative Negligence Not Admissible In A Strict Liability Action (PA)


January 6, 2023 at 6:30:16 PM

<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="">Cote</a> v. Schnell Industrie</em>s, 2022 WL 16814032 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 8. 2022), Cote was injured while working at a transfer yard moving sand used in “fracking” operations from railcars to tractor-trailers for delivery to fracking customers. When Cote reached his hand into a piece of equipment to dislodge the wet sand so the sand could be properly transported onto the conveyor belt, his co-worker simultaneously activated the machine’s “power take off” lever, which slammed a gate shut and nearly severed Cote’s hand.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The defendant equipment manufacturer argued that Cote acted negligently because “he knew of the danger posed by putting his hand through the [gate] while the machine was energized.” Defendant’s theory related directly to the alleged product. Cote argued that the equipment was defective because “it cannot isolate, deenergize and lockout its [power take off lever] so that workers can safely unload jammed sand . . . without risk of the door closing.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The court granted Cote’s motion <em>in limine</em>, holding that defendant was precluded from arguing that Cote’s negligence caused the accident. The Court reasoned that because Cote’s alleged negligence “cannot be causally distinguished from the elements of the [equipment] Cote considers defective, [defendant] is unable to show ‘that none of the alleged product defects contributed in any way to the accident.’”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case stands for the proposition that a plaintiff’s conduct in a products liability case is relevant only if the conduct was the sole cause of the accident and unrelated to the alleged defect.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Sarah Polacek for her contribution to this post. Please contact Heather Aquino with any questions.</p>

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