• Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds that Expert Testimony is Required to Support Alternative Design Theories in Product Liability Cases.
  • October 4, 2018 | Author: Kenneth T. Newman
  • Law Firm: Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • Background

    Approximately 247 firefighters filed a mass product liability action claiming that the sirens on their trucks were defective and caused permanent hearing loss. In support of their claims, the firefighters produced an expert report opining that an alternative design, which would use a shroud on the siren to direct the noise to the front of the vehicle, was available and would have met industry standards. The siren manufacturer, however, argued that the shroud proposed by Plaintiffs’ expert would render its product less safe for the pedestrians and motorists it was intended to warn. The manufacturer thus moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiffs had failed to offer sufficient evidence that the proposed alternative design was safe for all users. The Trial Court granted the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

    Holding

    On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the Trial Court’s ruling. Specifically, the Superior Court held that Plaintiffs needed to have an expert testify that their proposed alternative design was safer than the Defendant’s sirens and that simply relying on the fact that the alternative design met industry standards was insufficient. Because the Plaintiffs’ expert failed to provide an opinion that the alternative design of the siren was safe for “all users,” namely pedestrians and motorists, summary judgment was appropriate.