Philadelphia personal injury law firm, Galfand Berger, is proud to announce the recent victory of one of our senior partners, Peter Patton, in a products liability case Capece v. Hess. Patton successfully argued that the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania should send his client’s claims for negligence and strict products liability to trial. In a case of first impression, Mr. Patton argued that the court should apply the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Tincher v. Omega Flex analysis. To read the decision in the Capece case, follow this link.
According to Tincher’s risk-utility test, a plaintiff can prove that a product is defective if “a reasonable person would conclude that the probability and seriousness of harm caused by the product outweighs the burden or costs of taking precautions.”
Despite the defendant’s motion for summary judgement, U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani ruled that under the terms set forth in Tincher, the question of whether or not a product is defective should be determined by a jury. This ruling represents one of the first federal decisions that has been made based on the new precedent.
Peter Patton’s client, Joseph Capece, is an employee of Hess, a German machine manufacturer, who was injured when a plate ejected from a machine at a plant in Pen Argyl fracturing Capece’s ankle.
Hess argued the cost of not using the machine in question was too high, and that the risk of harm is inherent to the machine and could not be changed. Hess also emphasized that the machine was responsible for doubling the Pennsylvania plant’s productivity. Patton argued that the machine could be modified to include a fixed safety fence along the conveyor. Judge Mariani ruled that a jury should determine the effect of an alternate design on the machine’s utility.
Hess also argued that Capece’s injury must have resulted from a lack of precaution on Capece’s part . Patton disputed Hess’s argument that Capece could have taken further precautions, and experts testified that the same machine was responsible for three accidents in other plants, one of which was fatal.
The judge ruled that because the outcomes of these material disputes would affect an opinion regarding the “probability and seriousness of harm” and “the burden or costs of taking precautions,” the arguments should be heard by a jury.
Contact Galfand Berger online or call 1-800-222-USWA (8792) to schedule a free consultation with one of our highly skilled Philadelphia personal injury lawyers.