The Pennsylvania Standards For Proving Defective Design Of A Product

In Pennsylvania, a plaintiff may bring a cause of action against the manufacturer, seller, or distributor of an allegedly defective product pursuant to one or more of three legal theories: strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. For years, Pennsylvania state and federal courts have been split about the application of the applicable standard for proving a strict liability design defect case.

The Pennsylvania Standards For Proving Defective Design Of A Product Plaintiffs in products liability cases typically assert and utilize the legal theory of strict liability. There are three types of product liability defects, including those resulting from a defective design, a manufacturing defect, or the lack of adequate warnings or instructions for a product.

For injured parties to establish any recovery for alleging that another party defectively designed a product, they must prove that the product that caused the injury was unreasonably dangerous based on two different standards used by Pennsylvania courts:

The Consumer Expectations Standard

Under this standard, Pennsylvania law defines a “defective condition” as a condition, upon normal use, that makes the product dangerous beyond the reasonable consumer’s expectations. Thus, this standard is based on the expectations of reasonable consumers of the product’s dangerous nature. Relevant factors in determining a reasonable consumer’s expectations are the product’s target user, identity of the user, nature of the product, the product’s intended use, and any express or implied representations by the manufacturer or seller.

For example, a reasonable consumer would expect a knife blade to be sharp, which could bar any recovery for a cut finger. However, a sharp knife handle would be unexpected, and thus could provide the basis for recovery based on a defective product design.

The Risk-Utility Standard

This standard is based on a risk-reward or cost-benefit analysis and examines whether the seriousness and likelihood of the resulting injury from the product’s use was outweighed by the cost or burden of preventing the harm related to or the occurrence of the injury.

For example, a phone that explodes in a clothes dryer would probably not be found by a Pennsylvania court to be defective, while a phone that explodes in a person’s pocket would likely be found to be defective under a risk-utility theory.

Consumers have a right to assume that a product available for sale and use is safe for its created purpose. While E-cigarettes and phone batteries should not explode and catch fire, they sometimes do, and injured parties have a right to recover damages for any injuries.

As the law of product liability is complex and distinct, products liability cases require attorneys that have the ability and expertise to analyze all of the legal and technical issues of a particular products liability matter. Powell Law has litigated on behalf of those injured by the use of a product, device, or other merchandise for 111 years. If you have used any product and believe, as a result, you suffer from injury, illness, or condition, call Powell Law. Your first consultation is free. Contact us online or call (570) 961-0777.


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