Philadelphia Defense Institute’s Counterpoint

Since Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 104 A.3d 328 (Pa. 2014), rejected the strict negligence/strict liability dichotomy that had plagued Pennsylvania products liability litigation under Azzarello v. Black Brothers Co., 391 A.2d 1020 (Pa. 1978), for over 35 years, admissibility of regulatory and industry standard compliance evidence has been a major open issue.

Authors: James M. Beck

Practically every other state1 and major product liability commentators2 recognize the relevance of compliance evidence in strict liability cases. But during Azzarello’s reign of error, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that strict liability precluded evidence that the defendant’s product complied with industry standards in Lewis v. Coffing Hoist Div., 528 A.2d 590 (Pa. 1987). “‘[I]ndustry standards’” go to the negligence concept of reasonable care, and . . . under our decision in Azzarello such a concept has no place in an action based on strict liability in tort.” Id. at 594.

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