• Superior Court Rules Tincher Applies to Failure to Warn Cases
  • July 16, 2015 | Author: Timothy D. Rau
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Philadelphia Office
  • The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently issued an opinion deciding a number of issues in the consolidated appeal of Amato v. Crane/Vinciguerra v. Crane, 2015 PA Super. 83. The cases were appeals from jury verdicts of $2.5 million and $2.3 million that were tried in Philadelphia in February 2013 before the Honorable Mark Bernstein.

    The opinion is most notable because of the panel's finding that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling in Tincher v. Omega Flex, 104 A.2d 328 (2014) applied to product liability cases alleging that a product was defective because of a failure to warn. In November 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued the Tincher opinion, which declined to adopt the Third Restatement of Torts but overruled the law of Azzarello v. Black Brothers, 391 A.2d 1020 (Pa. 1978). Azzarello had previously prevented a jury from taking questions of risk and utility of a product into consideration in a product liability case. The Tincher court held that a jury can take risk and utility into account when determining if a product is defective and "unreasonably dangerous."

    Crane Co. argued that the trial judge erred by failing to permit a jury instruction that incorporated a reasonableness test. The plaintiffs argued that the Tincher decision was decided in the context of a design defect case and did not apply to failure to warn cases, such as the asbestos cases of Amato and Vinciguerra.

    The court noted that Tincher established that questions of whether a product is unreasonably dangerous and defective is now generally a question of fact for a jury. In doing so, the court rejected the plaintiffs' arguments and held that Tincher applied to failure to warn cases.

    Despite finding that Tincher applied to the instant cases, however, the court found that Crane was not entitled to the jury instruction it sought as a result of the defenses asserted at trial. The court held that Crane was not prejudiced by the instruction given to the jury because of the arguments made to the jury.