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Pennsylvania Product Liability Laws

Pennsylvania consumers rely on product manufacturers to protect their safety by ensuring the products they sell are free from dangerous defects. Despite the precautions companies take, serious defects in products still end up harming users. Drugs turn out to have serious side effects, batteries in phones and laptops explode, and medical devices fail to perform as expected. If you were harmed by a defective product in Pennsylvania, the state's product liability laws can help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

The table and discussion below cover important aspects of Pennsylvania product liability laws.

Statutes of Limitation

Discovery Rule Used

  • Yes, where fraudulent concealment occurs (Fine v. Checcio, (2005) 870 A.2d 850, 860)

Statute of Repose

Limits on Damages

  • No

Comparative Fault

Time Limits

In Pennsylvania, injured parties have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. Here, the time limit is two years from the date of injury. If you don't file in that time period, you could be barred forever from filing your claim, except in limited circumstances.

One such exception relates to fraudulent concealment. If the product defect is not discovered at the time of injury due to its fraudulent concealment, the two year clock does not begin to tick until the point at which a reasonable person would have discovered the defect. This may occur when a medical implant fails and the doctor hides the device's failure from their patient. Here, the statute of limitations would begin to run at the point where a reasonable person would know that the device's defect caused their injury.

Another exception involves improvements on real estate. Called a "statue of repose," Pennsylvania law provides 12 years to bring a claim relating to defective real estate improvements that injure you or damage your property, such as electrical work that causes a shock or plumbing that leaks.

Limits on Damages

Pennsylvania uses the modified comparative fault standard. This means that the jury can't find the injured party to be more than 50% responsible for the resulting injury. However, they can recover, even if they were equally responsible for the outcome. Modified comparative negligence is the most common approach to liability in the United States.

Basis for Liability

There are three main categories of product liability defects: defective design, manufacturing defect, or lack of adequate warnings or instructions.

Defective Design

In cases where a defect in the product's design caused injury there are two important standards Pennsylvania courts use to determing product liability:

  1. The Consumer Expectations Standard - This standard asks whether the product is more dangerous than the reasonable consumer would expect. A reasonable consumer would expect a knife blade to be sharp, for example, and might not be able to recover for their cut hand. A sharp handle on the knife would be a surprise, however, and could prove the product had a defective design.
  2. The Risk-Utility Standard - This standard asks whether the injury resulting from the product's use was serious enough or likely enough to have outweighed the burden of taking precautions against the injury's occurance. A phone battery that might explode when put through a dryer cycle might not be found defective, while one that explodes in your pocket would.

Manufacturing Defect

Some products cause injury because of a flaw in the manufacturing process rather than the design. Manufacturing defect claims involve "strict liability," meaning that the manufacturer did not have to intend to injure you or know of the defect. Instead, your case will simply show that the product was defective and that its defect caused your injury.

Lack of Adequate Warning or Instructions

Some products carry a risk no matter how well they are designed or constructed. In this situation the manufacturer has an obligation to provide adequate warning of the potential for danger. Failure to provide warnings, or providing them in a way that is difficult to see or understand can result in laibility for the manufacturer. Toxic components, choking hazards, hot elements, and other dangers must carry appropriate warnings.

Get a Product Liability Claim Review from a Local Attorney

If you were injured or your property was damaged by a defective product, you may be able to claim damages against the manufacturer or other responsible parties. Businesses tend to be well-prepared to defend themselves and have teams of lawyers on staff for this purpose. You can bring support of your own, and a lawyer's assistance can help ensure your fair compensation. Contact a local attorney to schedule a case review to discuss your claim.

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