• The Post-Tincher Landscape: Court Applies the Risk-Utility Test to Deny the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
  • April 24, 2015 | Author: David Salazar
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Philadelphia Office
  • Nathan v. Techtronic Indus. N. Am., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18835 (M.D. Pa. 2015)

    The plaintiff brought this product liability action against a table saw manufacturer, a distributor and a retailer alleging, inter alia, that the design of the table saw he purchased was defective because it failed to incorporate flesh-detection technology. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s design defect claim, arguing that flesh-detection technology was not a feasible alternative design at the time the table saw was manufactured. In support of their feasibility argument, the defendants noted that the only company incorporating flesh-detection technology into its saws did so with much larger and more expensive industrial cabinet saws and contractor saws, but not with table saws.

    Retroactively applying Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 104 A.3d 328 (Pa. 2014) to the defendants’ motion, the court analyzed the alternative design issue under the risk-utility test and denied the motion. First, the court found that the defendants focused on one side of the risk-utility equation, “the burden or costs of taking precautions,” and failed to come forward with any facts or evidence concerning the “probability and seriousness of harm caused” by the table saw. Secondly, the court found that the evidence offered by the defendants in support of their feasibility argument was inadequate. In the court’s view, this evidence focused exclusively on the fact that the other company’s product line did not include a small table saw, but said nothing about the feasibility and cost of implementing flesh-detection technology into the defendants’ table saw.

    Lastly, the court noted that, even if the defendants had met their burden, the plaintiff would have created a genuine issue of material fact by offering, among other things, empirical data regarding the social costs and frequency of table saw accidents and the effectiveness of flesh-detection technology in preventing such accidents.